Mounties stopped short in first round

DANIELLE FIORINI/For The Sun-Gazette Luke Winner (9) and Cole Lentz (2) tackle a Mount Carmel runner Friday at South Williamsport.

South Williamsport got South Williamsported on Friday night by Mount Carmel.

The Red Tornadoes took the gameplan the Mounties have used so well this year to post nine wins and turned it on its head at Rodney K. Morgans Stadium. Mount Carmel limited South Williamsport’s offensive chances with a dynamic running game and played stout defense against the Mounties’ potent run game.

In a throwback of a football game in which there were just two completed passes, John Ayres ran for 146 yards and a touchdown, Shane Weidner scored twice, and the sixth-seeded Red Tornadoes intercepted three passes in a 28-14 win over No. 3 South Williamsport in the District 4 Class AA quarterfinals.

Mount Carmel attempted just three passes and didn’t complete one of them. But it really didn’t need to. The Red Tornadoes averaged nearly 6 yards per carry and had 14 rushes of at least 8 yards as its offensive line dominated for the majority of last night’s heavyweight matchup.

The Red Tornadoes erased all memory of the 40-0 setback it suffered in Week 11 last year on the very same field by playing South Williamsport’s game better than South Williamsport was able to.

“We weren’t planning on running the ball that many times,” Mount Carmel head coach John Darragh said. “Our guys were just having a lot of success and guys were grinding it out and chewing clock up. So we kept doing it.”

There was really no reason for Mount Carmel to throw the ball. The Red Tornadoes had eight offensive possessions last night and failed to pick up a first down on just three of them, and one was a drive in which it was trying to run out the clock in the second quarter.

The Red Tornadoes continually gouged the Mounties with a counter sweep which left open running room in the second level of South’s defense. And as a counter, with South’s linebackers sprinting wide, Mount Carmel perfectly timed the use of a dive plays up the middle when the second level had been vacated.

Mount Carmel picked up four first downs on seven snaps on its opening possession when Ayres scored from 4 yards out to cap a 76-yard drive. Ayres and Weidner combined for three consecutive runs on that drive of at least 12 yards. Those seven points in the first 4 minutes, 9 seconds of the game were more than the Red Tornadoes scored in 48 minutes of the teams’ matchup a year ago.

“We were just taking what the defense gives us. It’s what we’ve been doing all year,” Darragh said. “That first drive was huge just to get confidence. We got shut out here last year, so rolling down the field like that was a great confidence booster for us.”

In turn Mount Carmel’s defense was giving South Williamsport no running room at all. The Mounties picked up a first down on each of its first three drives, but each one stalled. The third drive penetrated as far as the Mount Carmel 10-yard line before a holding penalty pushed it back.

And on fourth down, South Williamsport tried to run the same wide receiver pass it used for a touchdown against Line Mountain a week ago. But Hunter Finn’s pass floated and C.J. Reichard jumped the route, intercepting the ball and returning it 82 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

It was the first of three interceptions for a Mount Carmel defense which never got caught on South Williamsport’s play-action package. Michael Cuff intercepted a pair of passes in the fourth quarter to help thwart Mountie drives.

“We made some big plays in some crucial situations and had great coverage,” Darragh said. “The secondary really stepped up tonight.”

By the time South Williamsport’s offense and defense both found its footing, it was was already staring in the face of a 21-0 deficit. And offense which is so predicated on grinding out yards and clock wasn’t built to battle that kind of deficit. But Gideon Green has a way of changing things.

The senior carried 36 times for 175 yards last night. He carried on five of eight plays on a second quarter drive in which he scored on a 4-yard run to get the Mounties within 21-7. Green then carried on eight of nine plays on the Mounties’ first second-half drive, accounting for 62 of the 64 yards South traveled for a touchdown.

The senior again played through a pinched nerve which he said will likely require a couple months of physical therapy to repair.

“That was definitely a momentum booster. The holes started really small and there wasn’t much room to move at all,” Green said. “But that’s how things go with us. We’re a second-half team. Over and over and over again you’re going to take the pounding of a downblock from our linemen and eventually the hole get big enough that you can drive a truck through.”

“We fought and chopped back and got (the deficit) to seven, but then we gave up a drive,” South head coach Chris Eiswerth said. “It’s one of those games where you’re not going to have as many offensive series when you have two teams that run the ball the way we do.”

Mount Carmel answered Green’s second touchdown with a brilliant, 10-play, 64-yard effort in which Weidner scored his second touchdown from 4 yards out. By the time they took a 28-14 lead with Rosolino Mangiapane’s fourth PAT, there was just 13:41 left in the game.

“They have a big, physical team and good backs. They blocked well,” Eis­werth said. “They play their game very much like we do. They find something that’s working, they stick with it. We got a couple stops, but it just wasn’t enough.”