Help us keep our content free!
Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, August 28th, 2021
Around Central Pennsylvania to start the high school season it almost seemed like Mother Nature and COVID-19 had a pact. Last year the coronavirus tried to ruin the high school football slate, and 2021 started off with inclement weather around the Northumberland and Columbia county areas.
At Tiger Stadium, a lightning strike was seen in the distance during Southern Columbia’s home-opener against Berwick, but the officiating crew felt it was far enough in the away to continue play in the second quarter.
That may have been because there was enough to worry about on the field with the lightning and thunder that the Tigers put on display in their 43-0 Mercy Rule win against the visiting Bulldogs.
As Grammy Award winning group Imagine Dragons stated in their hit song, “Thunder, feel the thunder, lightning and the thunder.”
On offense, the returning backfield trio of Gavin Garcia, Braeden Wisloski, and Wes Barnes each crossed the goal line on runs. Liam Klebon showed off his ability to run from the quarterback position and also dumped off a screen pass to Garcia for a score.
Defensively, the Tigers made the Bulldogs look like they were in the middle of a mid-summer drought when it came to trying to sustain drives. On special teams, Garcia made Berwick pay for punting it his way as he tore up the opposition by personifying a high-level earthquake on the Richter scale.
“We want to win. We want to do whatever we can as a team. There isn’t anything more to say. On offense, defense, and special teams, we ball out and give it everything that we have. That’s the standard at Southern,” said Wisloski.
Southern’s starters didn’t step foot on the field after halftime because the devastation was already done. Give Berwick credit because they certainly didn’t quit and showed that they have the talent to compete throughout their conference slate especially when they were disruptive during the first half of the opening quarter. However, when it comes to going up against Pennsylvania’s most successful program what did Bon Jovi say? “No one can save me the damage is done.”
The Bulldogs put up a fight early on, but as a new opponent taking on the juggernaut, they learned what happens on a near weekly basis in the Fall against the school made up of residents of Elysburg, Catawissa, and Numidia.
“Early on I thought our guys put up a fight, but as the game wore on, they took over and we couldn’t stop them. They have a system in place that works. Every year they show it,” said Berwick coach Carm DeFrancesco.
Southern produced ‘just’ 289 yards of offense, which any other school would be pleased with, but based on the black and gold’s standard was a low amount. In fact, it was the least that the Tigers had produced offensively since a 36-0 victory in the ESPN2 season opener in 2019 in South Carolina against Hammond. The total was far from a negative though.
“Looking back at what just happened other than Braeden’s long run, we didn’t have a lot of lengthy plays. That’s a credit to our defense because most of our drives we didn’t have to put together drives for a long distance. Defensively, it was a good sign for the start of the year,” Southern head coach Jim Roth said.
Klebon scored the first touchdown of the game with 6:24 left in the first on a 31-yard scamper. The senior used his legs when things broke down in the pocket. On a fourth-and-ten, he escaped pressure and was able to get into the end zone.
“I was looking to get the ball to my intended target Jake Rose on the designed play. Then when things broke down, I just tried to make a play. I had some good blocks ahead of me and got in for the score,” Klebon said.
Southern was without their kicker Isaac Carter because of COVID, so they went for two after some of their touchdowns. Berwick had to replace four starters for the same reason.
With 3:53 left in the opening quarter, Wisloski ripped off a 92-yard highlight worthy carry down the Bulldogs sideline. After Garcia’s second converted two-point attempt, the Tigers took a 16-0 lead to the second quarter.
Over a span of just over six minutes in the second quarter of play, Garcia scored three touchdowns of 68 yards on a punt return, 18 on a reception, and nine on a run. The punt return showed why the Division 1 recruit is poised to earn the Class 2A Player of the Year for a second year in a row.
“The ball was in the air and I made the first guy miss with a spine move, then props to my guys. All I saw was black shirts and the guys coming for me were being blocked. I just did what I could to stay on my feet and thankfully I got into the end zone by the end of the play,” said Garcia.
On the final play of the first half, Barnes was able to score by breaking a couple of tackles and then gliding into the end zone from 16 yards out. The Tigers elected to keep their lead at 43-0 by taking a knee on the conversion attempt.
In the second half, SCA’s reserves were determined to keep the shutout and did just that. For the third straight season, the 11-time state champs were able to post a shutout in week one.
“Our inside linebackers (Garrett) Garcia and (Dominic) Fetterolf played well, and I think that had to do with the pressure of our front four. I am happy that we have most of our guys going one way even though our numbers are down this year. If we need to, we have guys capable of going both ways. Trevor Yorks is undersized, but he got in the backfield as a defensive lineman,” Roth said.
Southern, who is now six wins away from breaking Clairton’s state-record (66) for consecutive wins overall, will travel to Bloomsburg next week. Berwick will have their home-opener against Crestwood.
Southern Columbia 43, Berwick 0
BER — SCA
First downs: 3 — 10
Rushes-yards: 29-87 — 20-231
Passing yards: 31 — 58
Total yards: 118 — 289
Passing (C-A-I): 5-13-0 — 2-6-0
Penalties: 3-20 — 1-13
Fumbles/lost: 1-1 — 3-1
BERWICK (0-1): 0-0-0-0 — 0
SOUTHERN (1-0): 16-27-0-0 — 43
SC — Liam Klebon 31 run (Gavin Garcia two-point conversion)
SC — Braeden Wisloski 92 run (Garcia two-point conversion)
SC — Garcia 68 punt return (Jake Rose two-point conversion)
SC — Garcia 18 pass from Klebon (Klebon kick)
SC — Garcia 9 run (two-point conversion failed)
SC — Wes Barnes 16 run (no attempt)
RUSHING: BERWICK — Ryan Bankes 19-63; James DeAndra 5-19; Tyler Winter 2-8; Ethan Lear 3-(-3). SOUTHERN — Braeden Wisloski 4-98, TD; Wes Barnes 5-67, TD; Liam Klebon 1-31, TD; Gavin Garcia 7-27, TD; Matt Masala 3-8.
PASSING: BERWICK — Matt Lonczysnski 5-13-0, 31 yds. SOUTHERN — Liam Klebon 2-6-0, 58 yds, TD; Blake Wise 1-1-0, 5 yds.
RECEIVING: BERWICK — Dray Wilk 2-13; Tahsjee Taylor 1-10; Rowan Slabinski 1-5; Bo Sheptock 1-3. SOUTHERN — Jake Rose 1-40; Gavin Garcia 1-18, TD; Kyle Christman 1-5.
Follow PA Football News on Twitter @PaFootballNews
© Copyright 1997-2022 PA Football News. No portion of this website may be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of PA Football News.
Home | Advertising | Contact Us | Internships