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South Williamsport moves on to Class A Semifinals after beating Cambria Heights

Written by: on Sunday, November 26th, 2023. Follow Matt Beltz on Twitter.


WILLIAMSPORT – In South Williamsport’s two losses this season, the Mounties committed a total of nine turnovers.

Over the last two weeks, the Mounties avenged both of those losses with wins over two-time defending district champion Canton and a blowout win over Muncy in the District 4 Class A championship game last weekend to give the program its first district title since 2014.

And on Saturday night, in the Class A state quarterfinal, the Mounties flipped the turnover script, as they were the beneficiaries of four Cambria Heights turnovers, and South turned all four of them into touchdowns as the Mounties advanced to their first PIAA semifinal since 2014 with a 33-0 shutout over the Highlanders. The Mounties will meet defending Class A state champion Steelton-Highspire next week.

“We really battled turnovers all year so we know how important it is and we really strive to work on that and tonight we caused some and played clean,” said South Williamsport coach Chris Eiswerth. “We really had a lot of injuries around mid season and it was tough but it built a lot of character with the adversity they faced, but they worked through it and they’re different from what they were at the beginning of the year and they’re playing like that.

“It’s exciting because we had that taste (back in 2014) and we’ve won a lot of games and done a lot of great things but the guys really committed back in January and worked hard and I think they’re seeing the fruits of their labor,” said Eiswerth.

South asserted its dominance on the ground early on, as the Mounties received the opening kickoff and then proceeded to burn up over seven minutes on a 15-play, 69-yard drive capped by Ryan Casella’s one-yard touchdown run to go up 6-0.

From there, it was a parade to the end zone following turnovers, as South scored on its next four possessions, with all of them coming following takeaways from the Highlanders. Cambria Heights turned the ball over on four of its first five possessions, with only the end of the half breaking up that string.

The Highlanders put together what was a good-looking drive following South’s initial touchdown, as they drove from their own 36 to the Mountie 21-yard line, getting a nice 19-yard completion from Isaac Weiland to Stephen Nelen to set them up at the 21. But three plays later, Weiland was picked off by Dylan Scheller who returned it 54 yards all the way back to the Highlander 35.

South then proceeded to take eight plays to go those 35 yards, and Kaiser Kistner punched it in from seven yards out, following a defensive penalty on the PAT, South went for two and converted when quarterback Tadd Lusk took a naked bootleg in to make it 14-0 at the 9:32 mark of the second quarter.

The Mounties picked off Weiland again on Cambria Heights’ ensuing drive, with Kistner making the interception this time at the South 47. This time, South took just six plays to go 53 yards, capped by Kistner’s second touchdown run on the night from three yards out to make it 20-0. Casella picked up a pair of chunks on that drive with pickups of 16 and 14 yards to flip the field. Kistner would finish the night with a game-high 125 yards on 21 carries to go with his two touchdowns.

On Cambria Heights’ next possession, the Highlanders started at their own 10 following a fumble on the kickoff return but still managed to get it out to their own 46 and had a fourth-and-4. They successfully executed a fake punt, as Garrett Jasper took the snap and ran it down the right sideline for a 25-yard gain all the way to the South 29 before having it punched out of his hands, and the Mounties recovered at their own 25.

“We knew that they had some very good, very fast players – Jasper is a tremendous football player,” said Eiswerth. “They ran the toss well and got outside and we just had to contain them, but our kids took advantage of the opportunities and we finished drives, and our defense bent but didn’t break and that’s how we go about it.”

On the first play of their ensuing drive, Kistner flipped the field again with a 43-yard run, and three plays later, Lusk hit Landyn Gephart for a 29-yard touchdown reception just before halftime to make it 27-0.

Cambria Heights fumbled an attempted reverse handoff on its second play from scrimmage of the second half after receiving the second-half kickoff, giving South the ball at the Highlander 37-yard line. The Mounties then ran off eight straight plays, the final of which was a four-yard touchdown run by Lusk to make it 33-0 at the 7:06 mark of the third quarter.

That would be more than enough, as Cambria Heights turned it over on downs twice and was forced to punt on its other second-half possession.

South, which has now won 11 games for the first time since 2016, will appear in the state semifinals for the fourth time in school history, and for the first time since the Dom Bragalone-led team in 2014.

South Williamsport 33, Cambria Heights 0

Cambria Heights (10-4)       0  0  0  0 –  0

South Williamsport (11-2)    6 21 6  0 – 33


First quarter

4:37 – (SW) Ryan Casella 1-yard run (kick failed), 15-69, 7:23


Second quarter

9:32 – (SW) Kaiser Kistner 7-yard run (Lusk run), 8-35, 3:12

5:20 – (SW) Kaiser Kistner 3-yard run (kick blocked), 6-53, 2:22

:18 – (SW) Landyn Gephart 29-yard pass from Tadd Lusk (Ogden kick), 4-75, :33


Third quarter

7:06 – (SW) Tadd Lusk 4-yard run (pass failed), 8-37, 4:03

                                                      CH                         SW
First downs                                    10                             20

Rushes-net yards                       37-151                     47-249

Passing yardage                            33                            67

Passing                                      2-7-0-2                     5-9-1-1

Fumbles-lost                                 5-2                           1-0

Penalties-yards                            3-27                          1-5

RUSHING: Cambria Heights: Stephen Nelen (17-52), Trey Trybus (7-51), Garrett Jasper (6-46), Jaxxon Kline (3-6), Isaac Weiland (3-(-6)), Luke Mulraney (1-2); South Williamsport: Kaiser Kistner (21-125-2), Ryan Casella (18-87-1), Landyn Gephart (3-26), Tadd Lusk (2-9-1), Evan Barry (2-3), TEAM (1-(-1))

PASSING: Cambria Heights: Isaac Weiland (2-7-33-0-2); South Williamsport: Tadd Lusk (5-8-67-1-1), TEAM (0-1-0-0-0)

RECEIVING: Cambria Heights: Stephen Nelen (2-33); South Williamsport: Ethan Scheller (3-23), Landyn Gephart (1-29-1), Kaiser Kistner (1-15)

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