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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, October 12th, 2019
By: Dave Fegley (10-12-19)
By: Dave Fegley (10-12-19)
Southern Columbia and Wyoming Area took on each other for the first time ever on Friday night in a matchup of unbeaten squads. The game, which wasn’t officially scheduled until Monday of this week, featured two teams coming in ranked in the state. The Tigers obviously remain as the top team in the 2A rankings, a spot they have held since the beginning of 2017. Wyoming Area, off of arguably their best start in school history, shot up to the third ranked team in the 3A ranks. With both of these powerhouses coming in undefeated, only one would leave Jake Sobeski Stadium in West Pittston still perfect.
After a scoreless first quarter, with each defense showing why both squads are ranked at the top of the state, it was the Tigers showing why they are the top ranked small school in the United States by stamping a 42-0 Mercy Rule win on the road. “Neither team was able to find the end zone in that first quarter. We had a good drive going early on, but Wyoming Area made that big stop on fourth down to end the threat at the two-yard line,” said Southern head coach Jim Roth. “The atmosphere was like a playoff game and then in the second quarter our guys were able to put the momentum on our side for the rest of the game.”
On a night that Wyoming Area celebrated their 2019 Homecoming game, with the pregame festivities culminating with the crowning of a king and queen, Gaige Garcia stole the royalty status in the second quarter. With the Warriors entering the quarter still thriving off of the energy of a sold out crowd of over 7,000 fans, “The Goliath” showed why he is the king when it comes to scoring touchdowns in Pennsylvania history. The Michigan-bound running back put SCA up 7-0 with 11:02 left in the half on a four-yard run.
After the Tigers defense stopped the Warriors for three straight negative yardage plays, SCA got the ball back and Gavin Garcia got into the scoring mix. With 6:32 left in the half, the younger Garcia scored on a 22-yard sweep behind the blocking of his offensive line. “After the first quarter we just started getting into our rhythm and adjusted to their competitive line,” said Tiger senior lineman Jake Herr. “We just doubled-down and played the way we know how to play.”
The Tigers defense continued to dominate by blowing past the Warriors offensive line on seemingly every snap. “Everyone on the team was ready to play the game and all of our starters were looking for a challenge. With it being their homecoming was just added hype for the big game,” said SCA linebacker Cal Haladay. Wyoming Area’s quarterback Dominic DeLuca, who has garnered Division 1 scholarship offers in both football and lacrosse, was running for dear-life every time he dropped back in the pocket or had to scramble.
Over the final few minutes before halftime, the elder Garcia showed why he will go down as one of the greatest athletes the state has ever had the chance to witness. With 3:28 left in the half, Garcia caught a screen pass from Preston Zachman near the Tigers sideline. In what appeared at first to be a play that would be stopped by the Warriors, Garcia was able to transform into a Swiss Army Knife. The senior got a couple of key blocks and used his vision to cut across the field. He then used his strength to break three tackle attempts and put his speed at the forefront over the final few yards to get into the end zone from 49 yards out making the score 21-0.
The Warriors were able to mount together a drive just before halftime, but the Tigers defense came up big yet again. Gaige Garcia, who only plays defense in certain packages, picked up sacks on back-to-back plays forcing the Warriors into a field goal attempt just before the halftime clock hit zero. “It was nice to see Gaige make an impact on the other side of the ball. As a competitor, he is always itching to get out there on defense and he was able to make two big plays for us in a row,” said Roth. The 46-yard attempt didn’t come close to reaching the uprights so the Tigers, who haven’t lost a regular season game since Barack Obama’s first term in office as the POTUS, went into the intermission with all of the control.
Right from the kickoff in the second half, Southern Columbia showed why they have continued to make their case as the greatest team that Central Pennsylvania has ever had. With the defense in complete control, and holding a 21-point lead, the Warriors would have had to score more points than the Tigers first seven opponents combined just to bring the game to a tie. Now through eight games the Tigers have outscored their opponents 456-20. Wyoming Area, who led their division in rushing yardage coming in, didn’t have a single back register double-digit rushing yardage.
The third quarter started with the Tigers flying around the field almost trying to replicate the military plane flyover that Wyoming Area set for the pregame festivities just before the game kicked off with the fans getting to see a great rendition. “We didn’t make any adjustments really at halftime. When you are playing against a team as good as Wyoming Area, and they have the largest crowd that they ever had, you are happy to go in with a comfortable lead,” said Roth. “Then in the third quarter our guys just took over against a team that is ranked highly in a bigger classification and will still have the chance to compete for a title.”
On the first play from scrimmage, Ty Roadarmel bursted up the middle for a 40-yard dash. The very next play, Gavin Garcia took it in from 17 yards out to extend the lead to 28-0 less than a minute into the third quarter. After another three and out, thanks to two more sacks by the Tigers defensive line on DeLuca, the Tigers had a chance to put the game into the Mercy Rule. “We felt that the quarterback was the biggest part of their offense. We needed to make him feel uncomfortable because if we stopped him then we would be fine,” said Haladay who is headed to Michigan State in January. In total Southern’s defense forced a season-high seven sacks in the game.
With 5:45 remaining in the third quarter, the Tigers officially ruined the most anticipated Homecoming that any Wyoming Valley Conference school has had this century. Gavin Garcia scored for the third straight time that he got his hands on the ball. The sophomore pounded it in on a two-yard run. After Ethan Haupt’s extra point the lead ballooned to 35-0. On the scoring drive, Zachman did his part as a blocker from his quarterback position on a reverse that setup the score. “I’ve always loved lead blocking. I just think about like all of these players are giving 100% blocking for me every play so when I get the chance I want to do the same for them,” Zachman said.
The Wisconsin defensive commit, who is just the third quarterback in Jim Roth’s tenure to start on both sides of the ball, scored a touchdown less than a minute later on defense and it wasn’t from his usual linebacker position. “I was actually playing safety and we were in a prevent defense so I was just trying to stay behind all of the receivers,” said the senior. “Jake Davis made a nice play and went for the pick, but tipped it back right into my hands and it was all just open field pretty much from there. Cal (Haladay) made a nice block towards the end to secure the touchdown.”
With the Tigers up 42-0 heading to the final quarter, they were able to give their backups the opportunity to play the fourth in front of the large crowd. Neither team scored as the Tigers checked off their sixth shutout of the season. Three of those shutouts have included South Carolina’s top private school, the second best team in District IV, and now the #3 ranked team in Class 3A according to Penn-Live’s state rankings. “It would be one thing if our guys were shutting out all teams that are struggling, but some of these games have been against very good football teams,” said Roth.
Although Wyoming Area was hoping to keep the game closer, their coaching staff can use that scoreless first quarter as a stepping stone heading into the playoffs. “When you are at this point In the season with what potentially lies ahead, playing against a team like them is invaluable,” said Wyoming Area head coach Randy Spencer. The Warriors can use the film from the first quarter as a positive for what the rest of 2019 has in store for them. Then, they can throw the rest of the film into a dumpster and look ahead to next week. “The experience our guys got allowed them to see what makes Southern Columbia the best program in the state. They have the coaching staff and players to make them one of the all-time greats from anywhere,” Spencer said.
Wyoming Area (7-1) will try and rebound next week as they host an inferior Hanover Area team. Southern Columbia (8-0) will travel on the road again for another tough opponent. Ironically enough, the Tigers will take on another Warriors squad that is undefeated and state-ranked in Class 3A. Montoursville will try and show why they are ranked #5 in the state and attempt to do something against SCA that no other regular season opponent has done since 2011. The Tigers are excited for another challenge. “It helps a lot with preparing us for the playoffs for when we see big physical lines like we saw tonight and what we’ll see next Friday,” said Herr after the win.
Another great sign for the Tigers was receiving word that one of their assistant coaches was okay after being involved in a sideline collision in the second quarter of Friday’s game. Roger Nunkester, who is one of the line coaches, is set to get back surgery at some point before the end of the calendar year and has been using a walker on the sidelines this season to maneuver. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get out of the way on a play by the sidelines in the second quarter. “You hate to see any injury take place especially ones that appear to be severe. Not often does an injury happen to a coach, but football can unfortunately be a violent game,” said Roth.
Nunkester was knocked backward, after receiving the brunt of a tackle attempt with momentum carried out of bounds by three players, and his head struck the ground with a violent force. He was knocked out and didn’t regain consciousness for an uncomfortable amount of time. Tiger trainer Tim Jurnak used his knowledge to handle the situation and was able to help the the assistant coach wake up after what seemed to be several minutes in the moment. Medical personnel then loaded Nunkester onto a stretcher and into an ambulance, and he was transported to the nearest trauma center and diagnosed with a severe concussion and discharged just before midnight.
SCA: 0-21-21-0 = 42
WYA: 0-0-0-0 = 0
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (8-0)
Gavin Garcia 7-108, 3 TD’s; Gaige Garcia 8-72, TD; Ty Roadarmel 3-60; Preston Zachman 2-19; Braden Heim 3-13; Matt Masala 2-5; Wes Barnes 2-1; Trevor Yorks 1-0
Preston Zachman 6-12-1, 131 yds, TD
Julian Fleming 5-82; Gaige Garcia 1-49, TD
First Downs: 18
WYOMING AREA (7-1)
Richie Hizynski 2-8; Dominic DeLuca 15-7; Leo Haros 3-7; Colby Gashi 2-6; Vincienzo Giambra 2-5; FJ Braccini 1-1; Darren Rodney 5-(-4)
Dominic DeLuca 7-17-1, 96 yds
Riley Rusyn 2-37; Derek Ambrosino 2-33; Brian Williams 3-26
First Downs: 8
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