ALMEDIA–Jake Casella does not get many receiving opportunities. But when the South Williamsport tight end does, he often cashes in.
Casella did so again Saturday afternoon at CMVT, hauling in a 15-yard touchdown catch. Casella may have earned more chances, but South was so efficient that it rarely had the ball. When the Mounties did, they wasted little time scoring.
South’s starters averaged 15.2 yards on 19 plays, scoring five straight touchdowns as the Mounties defeated CMVT, 40-8 and won their third straight game. Clayton Swarthout ran for 95 yards and two scores on just two carries; Amir Kemerer produced a career-high 85 yards and Lane Lusk added 78 yards.
Casella so often helps that running game surge, but a player who often toils in anonymity alongside the stout offensive linemen, sure likes his time in the spotlight, too.
“It was amazing. I don’t get a lot of chances just because our run game is so good. It’s dominant,” Casella said. “We had a good running game, but when I caught the ball it was sweet.”
Watch Casella play and sweet is the last way one would describe him. A four-year starter, Casella played guard and center his first two years before moving to tight end last year. He also began his high school career as a linebacker before moving to defensive end and he is now one of District 4’s best there.
Casella proved that again Saturday, collecting seven tackles in 2 ½ quarters, including two for loss. And a player who caught a game-winning, last-minute 34-yard touchdown against Northwest last year again showed good hands in the passing game. Landon Lorson threw two touchdowns and as he rolled right in the third quarter, he spotted Casella getting a step on his defender and cutting across the end zone.
Lorson threw an excellent pass over the defender’s hands as he was hit and Casella cradled it for a score which put South up 34-0 less than three minutes into the second half.
“My freshman year I was bouncing back from guard to center. It was the best day of my life when they told me I was going to be a tight end,” Casella said. “I love it and I love catching the ball.”
South loves having Casella on its side. He is a player who helped South reach last year’s District 4 Class AA championship and who has helped fuel this winning streak.
“He’s a really good receiver. We have visions of him catching the ball nicely down the stretch, although I don’t like to look ahead. He’s one of the best players in the area,” South coach Chris Eiswerth said. “He can go to any school. He’s strong, he’s fast and he really wants to play college football. You can see he’s a talented guy. He’s tough off the edge and he’s worked hard in the weight room. He’s a guy that we’re hoping can continue to grow and have opportunities.”
South made the most of its nearly all its opportunities Saturday and the starters scored on all five series they were in the game. So explosive was the group that it needed just 13 plays to build a 27-0 halftime lead. Ten of those plays resulted in first downs and the starters gained at least nine yards on 16 of their 19 plays.
South suffered a blow when two-way starter Ryan Casella was injured on the game’s second play, but Owen Bird jelled with Austin Bowersox, Lucas Long, Evan Tortellet, Chris Confer and Connor Apker to help the offense run like a Ferrari. All those players are underclassmen and the more they play, the stronger they are becoming.
“It’s a work in progress,” Eiswerth said. “There’s still a handful of sophomores in there, but they’re getting better and we’re proud of everyone on the team.”
Swarthout capped South’s opening series with a 21-yard touchdown and closed the half with a 74-yard score after exploding through big hole on the right. In between, Lorson ran for a 9-yard touchdown and found Grant Bachman for a 15-yard score.
Sophomore Kaden Shay capped South’s scoring in the fourth quarter with his 4-yard run, making it 40-8. He was one of several younger players who saw significant time and made the most of it. Fellow sophomore Garrett Cooley kept that drive going with a 22-yard fourth-down catch and sophomore Landyn Gephart made four second-half tackles.
“We spread that out a little bit with a lot of the guys,” Eiswerth said. “It was nice to see JV’s get in and play and get in and score at the end.”
South’s starting defense never let CMVT score, consistently bending but never breaking throughout the first half. CMVT ran 37 first-half plays and produced 10 first downs while entering South territory three times. The Mounties always rose to the occasion, though, with Bachman ending one drive with an interception and Apker ending a threat one play before Swarthout’s second touchdown by recovering a fumble.
Defensive lineman Mickai Welch played another good game and was all over early in the game, delivering a big hit for a one-yard loss on a 4th-and-1 to end CMVT’s first series. He finished with six tackles, including two for loss.
“We did a lot of good things and CMVT did a lot of good things,” Eiswerth said. “For a Saturday game at 1 we’ll take it. They were pretty efficient.”
South Williamsport 40, CMVT 8
South 13 14 7 6–40
CMVT 0 0 0 8–8
S–Clayton Swarthout 21 run (Landon Lorson kick), 9:09
S–Landon Lorson 9 run (kick blocked), 2:07
S–Grant Bachman 15 pass from Lorson (Lorson kick), 7:58
S–Swarthout 74 run (Lorson kick), :41
S–Jake Casella 15 pass from Lorson (Lorson kick), 9:04
C–Shane Tomlinson 5 run (Caden Long run), 7:35
S–Kaden Shay 4 run (pass failed), 1:13
TEAM STATISTICS S C
First Downs 15 14
Rushes-yards 26-284 41-130
Passing yards 68 91
Total yards 342 221
Comp-Att-Int 5-8-1 10-16-2
Fumbles-lost 2-1 4-2
Penalties-yards 2-25 2-15
RUSHING: South, Clayton Swarthout 2-95, 2 TD; Amir Kemerer 10-85; Lane Lusk 5-78; Caden Harris 3-21; Landon Lorson 1-9, TD; Rasheed Green 2-3; Kaden Shay 3-(-8), TD. CMVT, Toby Zajac 29-115; Shane Tomlinson 5-19, TD; Mason Haught 3-7; Caden Long 3-0; Team 1-(-1)..
PASSING: South, Lorson 4-6-0, 46 yards, 2 TD; Shay 1-2-1, 22 yards. CMVT, Long 10-15-1, 91 yards; Zajac 0-1-1.
RECEIVING: South, Grant Bachman 3-31, TD; Jake Casella 1-15, TD; Garrett Cooley 1-22. CMVT, Tomlinson 6-56, Tommy Bond 3-21; Ethan Heverling 1-14.
INTERCEPTIONS: South, Bachman, Kaiser Kistner. CMVT, Tomlinson.
RECORDS: South 4-2. CMVT 0-6.