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Bucktail falls on the road to South Williamsport, 28-8

MARK NANCE/For The Express South Williamsport’s Zachery Miller runs for a big gain in the second quarter at Rodney K. Morgans Stadium in South on Friday night.

It’s hard to top the South Williamsport band’s halftime selections for summing up this 2020 high school football season. They played “The Sound of Silence” and “Bridge over Troubled Water” as part of a Paul Simon tribute and, while the songs may be older than most of the players’ parents, these classics hold up.

Friday night was not only the school’s home opener, it served as senior night in what was one of only two home games left on a five-game schedule shortened first by COVID-19 and then a team-affected quarantine.

The delay meant that South could hold senior night in front of family members, creating an atmosphere a little closer to normal instead of the empty silent stands across much of the state this fall. It also means that, in mid-October, the Mounties can ease their mind some about football matters, as their 28-8 win over Bucktail meant they’re 3-0 for a third straight season.

“Yeah, it’s been a weird season, out a couple weeks for quarantine, but I feel like we are 3-0 and we deserve it,” said South receiver Grant Bachman, who caught a 60-yard touchdown pass as part of a 4-catch, 109-yard night. “Coach was hard on us in practice all week. “We showed up and did what we needed to do.”

Zachery Miller ran for 99 yards and touchdown, and Lane Lusk rushed for two more for South. Landon Lorson, who threw the touchdown to Bachman, finished 6 of 14 passing for 104 yards.

MARK NANCE/For The Express South Williamsport’s Ryan Rishcoff breaks up a pass intended for Bucktail’s Tristan Probst in the second quarter of Friday’s game at Rodney K. Morgans Stadium in South.

South took a 14-0 first-quarter lead as both Lusk touchdowns came off turnovers. Lucas Long recovered a fumble on the opening drive and Lusk returned an interception 28 yards to set up his second score.

Bucktail, despite turnovers on its first two possessions, kept it close by dominating possession thanks to repeatedly running down the play clock. It’s a common tactic for the underdog to try and shorten the game by reducing the overall number of plays. It not only reduces the chances for the favorite’s superior talent to win out, it also increases the possibility that just a couple good breaks could flip the game. And with a halftime score at 14-0, that possibility was strong.

In addition, the Bucks’ Gage Sutliff ran well, carrying 21 times for 122 yards.

“We talked about how it was still a close game at halftime,” said South coach Chris Eiswerth. “It’s Bucktail’s pace, and if they score then it’s 14-7, maybe get an onsides kick and anything can happen. And we are happy to just be out there playing football.”

South didn’t start to take full control until Miller’s touchdown, which came after a penalty wiped out most of his punt return deep into Bucktail territory, a play where he reversed direction and even ran backwards for a few steps before breaking down the sideline. Seeing the flag was the kind of letdown that could hurt younger teams, but Miller rebounded to score after runs by Lusk and Caleb Swarthout put the Mounties back into the red zone.

“We’ll run a few really good plays, then a growing moment. A few good plays, then a growing moment,” said Eiswirth. “Any time you play that many youngsters, a game could go awry.”

Bucktail kept running, pounding Sutliff before Conner Mason avoided the shutout late in the fourth quarter with a 13-yard run that Sutliff converted with another run. Bucktail coach Jared Hurlburt didn’t plan all those runs, but kept with his leading rusher all night.

“Gage runs by his leadership and when he’s producing you go with that,” said Hurlburt.

Bucktail intercepted Lorson twice, with Braylon Fantaski and Tristan Probst getting one each.

Both coaches said their teams played hard, noting injuries and issues make for constant shuffling and using players young enough to have been ballboys just a few seasons ago.

And Eiswerth was happy the Mounties won for their seniors, who visit Athens Saturday before the season finale in two weeks vs. Towanda. They’re unbeaten and at the top of the District 4 Class AA standings with Southern Columbia.

Despite all their troubles, Simon might say all the Mounties’ dreams are on their way.

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