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Fast start carries South Western to crucial victory over Northeastern

PATRICK STROHECKER 505-5402
YorkDispatch

HANOVER - There's at least a glimmer of hope for South Western as it heads into the final week of the regular season.

The Mustangs hosted Northeastern in a showdown of two one-loss teams in York-Adams League Division I play on Friday night, with the winner having an outside shot of sharing the division title with Dallastown next week. The loser, on the other hand, would just be playing out the final game of its regular season.

For South Western, it will have a little bit more to play for in Week 10 after it knocked off the Bobcats, 24-7, on Friday night on Senior Night. The Mustangs improved to 5-1 in league play and will need a win and Wildcats loss in the final week to share the division title.

"We talked about (the significance of this game) a little bit," South Western head coach Damian Poalucci said. "But, our main goal was playing Northeastern. One of the things we talked about was being 2-0 - beating Northeastern then Spring Grove and have a home game for playoffs. The league title would be great, but I don't know if that's going to happen."

The game, which was one of the more anticipated games on the Week 9 schedule and in Division I for the season, lost some of its shine when Northeastern (4-2 Div. I, 7-2 overall) was forced to play with Kody Reeser at quarterback. Reeser, who's normally a running back, replaced injured starter Shannon Valenti and injured backup Blake Einsig, which really restricted the Bobcats' passing game.

With Northeastern struggling to get anything going offensively, South Western took advantage when it had the ball, scoring on its first three possessions of the game.

The Mustangs' first scoring drive - the opening drive of the game - lasted nearly seven minutes and was capped off by a nine-yard strike from Brock Geiman to Corbin Byers to give them a 7-0 lead. That drive set the tone for the game, as South Western kept the drive alive with three third-down conversions and fourth-down conversion.

"That was a great drive," Poalucci said. "The first drive of the game is so important. We don't really expect touchdowns, but move the chains, get two first downs and you're successful on that drive."

The Mustangs continued to roll on their next possession after taking over in Bobcats' territory. This time, the drive was quicker, but the result was the same. Geiman connected with Miles Francis from 20 yards out to put South Western up 14-0. A 28-yard field goal early in the second quarter gave the Mustangs a 17-0 advantage and seemed to have the game all but wrapped up before halftime. However, Taemar Willis gave Northeastern some life on the ensuing kickoff, taking it back 92 yards to get his team on the board. Despite owning a 185-29 yards advantage and only allowing one Bobcats first down, South Western still only led by that margin at halftime.

With the Bobcats' defense continuing to give its offense some life with stingy play, finally the Mustangs put the game out of reach midway through the third quarter. For the third and final time in the game, Geiman connected with a receiver for a touchdown. Geiman dumped off a short screen pass to Francis in the flat on third and long and Francis did the rest, taking it 46 yards to the house to give South Western the 24-7 lead and put up the final points in the contest.

The Mustangs' defense only allowed 112 yards of offense to Northeastern, including holding Reeser to just 1-of-12 passing for nine yards. Meanwhile, South Western racked up 297 yards of total offense and held an 18-6 first down margin.

So, the Mustangs go into next weekend's final matchup against Spring Grove with a shot to tie Dallastown in the Division I standings, needing a win and a Wildcats loss. As for the Bobcats, they don't have anything to play for next week within the league, but still have to worry about their seeding in the District 3-AAA playoffs, a spot where, if healthy, they could potentially make some noise. It's all about bouncing back and not letting this loss define their season.

"I told them that every good team will be judged by their game after a loss," Northeastern head coach Jon Scepanski said. "We lost tonight, so, if we're a good football team, we'll be ready to go next week and hopefully we have more success then."

Northeastern 0 7 0 0 - 7

South Western 14 3 7 0 - 24

First Quarter

SW, Byers 9-yard catch from Geiman (Sneeringer kick), 5:18

SW, Francis 20-yard catch from Geiman (Sneeringer kick), 1:36.

Second Quarter

SW, Sneeringer 28-yard field goal, 8:28

NE, Willis 92-yard kickoff return (Artman kick), 8:14

Third Quarter

SW, Francis 46-yard catch from Geiman (Sneeringer kick), 6:41

Fourth Quarter

No Scoring

Team Statistics

Category NE SW

Rushes/Yard 27-103 47-164

Passing 1-13-0 10-16-3

Passing Yards 9 133

Total Yards 112 297

First Downs 6 18

Penalties/Yards 6-75 7-80

Fumbles/Lost 5-1 2-0

Punts/Average 5-30.4 4-30.8

Individual Statistics

RUSHING: NE - Reeser 15-54, Johnson 8-39, Whack 4-10. SW - Harbison 12-46, Green 6-33, Hughes 11-31, Johnson 6-27, Geiman 4-14,

Francis 3-9, Muir 3-6, Davis 1-(-)2.

PASSING: NE - Reeser 1-12-9, 0, Whack 0-1-0, 0. School2 - Geiman 10-16-133, 3.

RECEIVING: NE - Zirkle 1-9. SW - Francis 2-66, Byers 2-25, Staub 2-23, Hughes 2-10, Green 2-9

- Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker