South Williamsport Mounties
South Williamsport shut down before it played a game last year. When the Mounties did hit the field, injuries piled up.
But South could not be broken. The Mounties never buckled and a young team made massive strides in a short time while building on the program’s stellar tradition. South went 5-2, upset favored Troy in the District 4 Class AA semifinals and reached the district championship for the fifth time in nine years.
And now most of the players who made that happen are back. Every time South was dealt a negative last year it turned it into a positive and those positive vibes continue flowing as the 2021 season approaches.
“They’ve really worked hard. Most of them have been in the weight room since January and the numbers and attendance were really good,” South coach Chris Eiswerth said. “It’s exciting to see the growth, the change and the maturity levels increase. It’s really neat to see the ability to check goals and be leaders. They tasted the Kool-Aid, so to speak last year, and they come back a little more excited.”
South has reason to be excited despite losing all-state running back Zack Miller and standouts like Ryan Rishcoff and Sam Hostrander. In addition to returning the majority of starters on both sides of the ball, South also will receive a boost from younger players and those who are returning to the field for the first time in a few years.
It also helps having several four-year starters, including Landon Lorson, Lane Lusk, Clayton Swarthout and Jake Casella. That quartet has seen just about everything during their scholastic careers and provides South quite a foundation entering the season.
“We haven’t had 10 seniors for quite some time. That’s exciting because they’ve been around and know what it’s like to play good competition and have success,’ Eiswerth said. “We’re excited to see how they can take the next step as seniors.”
Eiswerth and his staff helped South start taking monster steps forward after taking over in 2011 and at the core of that transformation has been imposing offensive lines, dynamic backs and a powerfully efficient running game. The Mounties have plenty of passing prowess but do not expect them to deter to much from that formula this season.
Lucas Long, Ryan Casella, Austin Bowersox and Mike Pinkerton all started up front last year and helped Miller become the ninth straight Mountie to produce a 1,000-yard season, doing so in just seven games. Jake Casella is a fabulous blocking tight end who also can make an impact in the passing game. Chris Confer, Owen Bird, Kyle Benson, Conner Apker and Evan Tortellet also could have strong seasons
While Miller graduated, Lusk and Swarthout both have run well over the last three seasons and give the backfield a hard-nosed mentality. Sophomore Amir Kemerer started in a late-season win against Towanda and also can provide quality production.
Lorson has started every game at quarterback since the District 4 Class A semifinals his freshman year and has developed into an excellent leader. He gives South a dual-threat option and produced three touchdowns three different ways in that last-season win against Towanda. Keep an eye on freshman Radley Knapp as well. Tall and possessing a big arm, Knapp could see some time as well and the quarterbacks could be utilized in different ways.
Senior wide receiver Grant Bachman provides South’s passing game one of the area’s premier weapons. A three-year starter, Bachman was among the area’s leading receivers last year and is dangerous both deep and after the catch. South also is eager to see what Rasheed Green and Caden Harris can do as receivers. Both have worked hard throughout the offseason and Green played well at the JV level last season, while Harris is returning to the field after taking the last two years off.
As it does offensively, South’s defensive success starts up front and all the linemen previously mentioned could play prominent roles there as well. Jake Casella is a potential all-state candidate at defensive end, Long collected two sacks and determined Confer shined when he was inserted into the starting lineup late in his freshman season. Long and Benson both are 275-pounders and Apker could be poised for a big breakout season at defensive end.
The linebacking core is both experienced and talented. Lusk and Swarthout have been productive throughout their scholastic careers and Ryan Casella dazzled as a freshman last fall. Casella led the team in total tackles and averaged nearly eight per game.
The secondary remains mostly intact as well. Lorson was a first team Sun-Gazette all-star at safety and Bachman has eight interceptions over the last two seasons. Harris possesses both speed and size and could help boost that unit as well.
South’s only losses last season came at Athens and in the district final against four-time defending state champion Southern Columbia. The Mounties came back strong following the Athens defeat and are hoping to do the same this season after losing to Southern in the final.
They would like nothing more than to put together another excellent season and earn a rematch against Southern.
Before it can think about that, however, South is looking at Cowanesque Valley. South opens against the vastly improved Indians before facing Wellsboro the following week. The Mounties look like a serious NTL title contender and also enter the season confident that they can handle all the trials and tribulations that can come throughout a season.
They certainly had a lot of practice doing so last year.
“We didn’t get started until June 17 last year, then we were shut down for two weeks, but sometimes out of adversity comes fortune,” Eiswerth said. “Every year is different. We have guys that have played and are back and are in the mix. That’s exciting.”
South Williamsport Players to Watch
Grant Bachman, WR/DB:
Jake Casella, DL/TE:
Landon Lorson, DB/QB:
Lane Lusk, LB/RB:
–by CHRIS MASSE
South Williamsport (5-2)
South Williamsport 33, Montgomery 13
South Williamsport 21, Northwest 14
South Williamsport 28, Bucktail 8
South Williamsport 18, Athens 35
South Williamsport 48, Towanda 22
District 4 Class AA Semifinals
No. 3 South Williamsport 35, No. 2 Troy 18
No. 3 South Williamsport 14, No. 1 Southern Columbia 49
Aug. 27–Cowanesque Valley
Sept. 3–at Wellsboro
Sept. 17–at Athens
Oct. 2–at CMVT
Oct. 8–at Muncy
Oct. 22–at Sayre