‘Scottie Pride’ returns as community relishes Southmoreland’s undefeated football season
The last time the Southmoreland Scotties made the WPIAL playoffs, the Pittsburgh Pirates were World Series champions.
That was in 1979.
Today, the Scotties (5-0) are the highest-scoring team in the WPIAL Class 2A Century Conference — and they’ve already clinched their first playoff berth in four decades.
“Everyone’s really excited about the team,” said the Rev. Neil Stevens, pastor of New Hope Alliance Church in Scottdale. “They had a float in the (fall festival) parade, and it was probably the most exciting part of the parade.”
A stroll along Scottdale’s Pittsburgh Street reveals storefront after storefront emblazoned with messages like “Scottie Pride” and “Go Scotties,” thanks to the local Lions Club’s contest to see who could show off the most school spirit.
“There’s just a general excitement,” said Shawn Harris, director of the Southmoreland Marching Band. “We compete with our marching band and have had some success as well as our girls’ volleyball and tennis teams, and it seems that we just have a lot of good things happening lately. There’s an overall school spirit that’s starting to take root.”
That spirit is evident among Southmoreland students.
“I’ve always loved watching our football team, but the last five weeks has really shown the school spirit we have,” said cheer captain and senior Charlotte Fullem.
After the team’s most recent win, according to 17-year-old senior Sarah Pisula, “the buses went down to the field house and there were so many people out supporting the team. It was cool to see. And (Coach) Keefer really gets everyone fired up.”
Junior Ben Zimmerman, 16, hasn’t missed a game this year, including away games.
“It’s been a blast,” he said.
Senior Charity Henderson, 17, who leads cheers in the Scotties’ student section, agreed.
“Our fall sports are all really kicking butt this year,” she said. “We’re putting Southmoreland on the map.”
When Ron Smith isn’t cutting hair at the former Frank’s Barber Shop on Bridge Street — now technically Smitty’s Barber Shop, although he keeps the old name since it’s a Scottdale institution — he works with the Southmoreland Area Midget Football Association. Watching youth football gave Smith a sense that success at the high school could soon return.
“I’ve been involved with the youth football program for the past 15 years and saw a season like this coming,” he said. “I thought it should’ve happened three or four years ago. They missed playoffs because of a bad snap against Waynesburg.”
In December 2016, the league’s Division 1 midget team brought home a championship after finishing the season with an 8-1 record. Ironically, its only defeat came to McGuffey, the team the Scotties take on Friday.
The McGuffey Highlanders, also undefeated on the season, beat Southmoreland, 56-28, last year.
Scottdale Borough saw an influx of Scots-Irish immigration in the late 1700s, and some of that cultural tradition carries through to today.
Early arrivals at a Southmoreland home game can witness the “Highland Fling,” a traditional Scottish dance performed by the Southmoreland Colorguard during pre-game activities.
“They do the same thing at the Highland Games,” Harris said. “Long before I was here, they used to have a bagpiper who would play along with the band.”
In addition to coaching midget football, Smith is a member of the Red & Black Football Booster Club and helps organize events such as post-game parties at Carson’s Tavern on Broadway Street.
“We started doing it last year and would get 50 or 60 people after a game,” Smith said. “This year, we’re getting 100 or 150 people, and it’s great. People are all really excited.”
Smith said midget football participation numbers are “way up, and the high school team only has five seniors this year, so I bet they get 50 kids next year.”
“I expect things to only get better going forward,” he said.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .