By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT —
As the announcer told the crowd of Rodney K. Morgans Stadium on Friday night that running back Brandon Stonge was leaving the game, the South Williamsport received a loud cheer as he got to the sideline.
And for good reason.
The Mountie ran for more than 200 yards, became South Williamsport’s all-time leading rusher and, most importantly, gave the program its first playoff win since 1997 as the Mounties defeated Bloomsburg, 32-16, in the District 4 Class A semifinal.
South Williamsport (10-1) faces unbeaten Southern Columbia next win for the title.
Right from the get go, the Mounties dominated Bloomsburg (8-3) in all phases. The usually explosive Panthers offense went three-and-out on their first six possessions before turning it over on downs. At the half, Bloomsburg had just 16 yards of total offense and had failed to pick up a first down until halfway through the third quarter.
South Williamsport gained momentum after Bloomsburg muffed a punt and put together back-to-back scoring drives in the first quarter before scoring again late in the second quarter to go into the half up 18-0.
“They controlled the ball, kept us off the field. Whatever it was, we just didn’t connect,” Bloomsburg coach Larry Sones said. “I think some of it was their defensive scheme and some of it was our execution. A little bit of both. It didn’t happen. That’s pretty much been a mainstay all year long (our offense) and tonight, it wasn’t what it’s been throughout the year.”
It wasn’t until late in the third quarter that Ricky Klingerman started connected offensively with an up tempo offense, hitting receivers and moving the ball.
In the first half, Klingerman had just 14 passing yards. By the end of the game, the junior had 187 and a touchdown through the air and ground. Nine of Klingerman’s 22 completions went to Colby Klingerman, who reeled them in for a team-high 67 yards.
It was all but too little, too late for the Panthers as South Williamsport defense played phenomenal throughout the game. The Mounties only gave up two third down conversions as Bloomsburg went 2-for-11 and 0-for-2 on fourth down and had just six total first downs.
The South Williamsport offensive line wore down the Panthers defense, allowing the Mounties to run for 337 yards on 55 carries. The majority of those yards came from Stonge, who ran for 222 yards and three scores.
And while Stonge set South Williamsport’s all-time career rushing record of 3,251 yards in the win. Tyler House (78 passing yards) also helped move the Mounties offense, twice connecting on passes of more than 35 yards, including a nice touchdown to Riley Hengler who reeled in a catch with extended arms through two defensive backs.
Regardless of who ran it, the South Williamsport offensive line routinely opened up holes for the Mounties to run through.
“That offensive line, they took the game over. Bloom really tried to stifle us by sending a lot of pressure and putting a lot of guys in the box,” South Williamsport coach Chris Eiswerth said. “As we searched and searched, Stonge kept finding it and got it done.”
Bloomsburg ended the shutout with a minute to go in the third quarter when Ricky Klingerman hit Zach Ashford on a 17 yard pass and the ensuing 2-point conversion made it a 24-8 game.
The Mounties went three-and-out on its next possession and Bloomsburg managed to drive into South Williamsport territory, but a Tyler Schonewolf sack on fourth down ended all of the Panthers’ momentum. The Mounties then took over on downs and drove 49 yards in five plays to put the game out of reach for good when Stonge ran it untouched almost 29 yards to make it a 32-8 game.
Bloomsburg’s final score came with 7:14 to play in the fourth quarter when the Panthers went 62 yards in 12 plays before Ricky Klingerman scored with a 1-yard quarterback sneak.