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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, November 23rd, 2019
By: Dave Fegley (11-23-19)
When Southern Columbia and Upper Dauphin took the field Friday night at Selinsgrove’s Harold L. Bolig Stadium, two things were certain. The Tigers (54.5 ppg) and Trojans (51.4 ppg) came in as the two highest scoring teams in the state, regardless of classification, and only one team would remain undefeated by the end of the night. “We knew it would take a solid effort from our defense and we have gotten the result we wanted from that unit all season long,” Southern coach Jim Roth said.
Southern Columbia, fresh off another District IV title, came out on fire by jumping out to a 42-0 lead on their way to a 63-22 victory over the District III champion Trojans. “I think our offensive line had one of their best games all year,” said Tiger fullback Ty Roadarmel. “Upper Dauphin had some schemes we weren’t used to seeing but the line knew what they had to do and led the charge in our win.”
Southern scored touchdowns on each of its first six possessions and the first two came from the legs of quarterback Preston Zachman. The senior scored the first two touchdowns of the game to put the defending state champions in front 14-0 after the first quarter. “It wasn’t really something I saw on film. It was just based off my reads after the snap,” said the Wisconsin-commit. “I was lucky enough that the linemen held their blocks and I was able to get some nice downfield blocks from my backs and receivers.”
Zachman, who had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, found the end zone on Southern’s first offensive possession from 22 yards out on a play that wasn’t a designed run. “Preston has the ability to make things happen with his athleticism. Being a former receiver helps him in situations like those where he is able to get out in the open field,” Roth said. After Jake Davis recovered a fumble giving the ball back to SCA, Zachman scored on a 54-yard run.
Early in the second quarter, the Tigers forced a three and out. SCA’s leading tackler Cade Linn forced two tackles for loss on the series. On the first play of the offensive drive, Gaige Garcia broke two tackles and outran the rest of the Trojans into the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown to go in front 21-0. “They are an outstanding football team and coaching staff,” said Upper Dauphin coach Kent Smeltz. “We watched film and knew what we were up against. We tried to duplicate what they do at practice this week, but they are just too good.”
Gaige’s younger brother Gavin joined the scoring party on the next drive after a Julian Fleming reception of 41 yards. Gavin scored on the next play on a six-yard run with 8:07 remaining in the half. On the next series, Zachman scrambled for a 34-yard gain and then found Fleming on the next play to extend the lead to 35-0. The Tigers star receiver caught the 16-yard touchdown pass while being mugged by the defender. “That is actually the first pass interference call that I got all season, so that was nice,” said Fleming. “That’s not something you can worry about though. Football is a physical game and you just have to fight through it.”
Roadarmel put the Tigers up 42-0 nothing on a two-yard plunge with 1:41 left in the opening half. Give credit to the Trojan squad for not giving up at that point. On the final play of the first half, UDA’s senior quarterback Macklin Ayers scored from a yard out making the score 42-6 at the break. “We don’t like to be scored on, so that will add fuel to the fire heading into next week,” said Tiger two-way lineman Lear Quinton. The touchdown was just the third one given up by Southern’s starting defense all season long.
On the first drive of the second half, Gaige Garcia added another accomplishment to his overflowing resume. On the second play of the half, he became just the seventh running back in Pennsylvania history to go over 8,000 yards in a career. On the next play, younger brother Gavin scored on a 20-yard dash to extend the lead to 49-6. From that point, the biggest challenge for the Tigers starters was finding a sideline jacket to stay warm for the remainder of the game. “We did a good job offensively of mixing things up. There are a lot of guys on this offense that can score when they get the chance,” Fleming said.
For the remainder of the game, each team scored twice. As they say, the stats don’t lie, but in the case of a typical Tiger blowout, the second half stats do lie and don’t paint the full picture. The Upper Dauphin starters and Southern reserves played an evenly matched game over the better part of the second half. With the Tiger starters watching from the sidelines, they didn’t appear very pleased to see the Trojan starters still on the field. “It’s something that you expect. They realize at a certain point that they can’t come back and want the seniors to play out their last game. Our focus is on next week,” Zachman said.
Although UDA’s 22-point performance nearly topped the 26 points in total that the Tigers gave up through the first 13 weeks, the Southern reserves held their own. “The younger guys get valuable experience out of games like this. It shows them the work that they need to put in heading into next season in order to keep the program playing at a high level,” Roth said. Ayers, who the Tigers held to just 32 yards on 15 carries, scored on runs of three and one yard in the final game of his career. Both scores were answered by SCA freshman Wes Barnes. His first touchdown came on a 92-yard kick return and then he scored the game’s final touchdown on a five-yard run.
Upper Dauphin closes out their best season in program history at 12-1. “I am extremely proud of this team. They came ready to work each day in practice and during each game,” Smeltz said after concluding his third year as the head coach. “We just ran into a football team that I feel is the best in the state regardless of classification.” Ayers closed out his all-state worthy senior season with 1,958 yards rushing and 41 touchdowns. He also added 1,271 yards passing. “He is an outstanding athlete and person. The best I have ever coached,” said his coach. Fellow senior Jake Ramberger, who was UDA’s leading rusher and receiver in the loss, caps off his fine season with 1,523 yards rushing and a team-high 537 receiving yards.
Southern Columbia, now 14-0, will play next Friday against District VI champion Richland. It will be the state-record 20th trip to an Eastern Final for Roth’s Tigers. “We have some things to look at defensively where we were tricked on a couple of plays. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing now that the players saw those different looks,” said Roth. “I am still very pleased with our defensive effort. We held the second highest scoring team in the state well under their average.” The Tigers, who are the highest scoring team in the state, will meet their second consecutive undefeated opponent next week when they play the Rams who are located in Johnstown. The winner will punch a ticket to Hershey the following week to play in the PIAA Class 2A State Championship.
SCA: 14-28-14-7 = 63
UDA: 0-6-8-8 = 22
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (14-0)
Preston Zachman 3-110, 2 TD’s; Gaige Garcia 4-93, TD; Gavin Garcia 8-89, 2 TD’s; Ty Roadarmel 5-32, TD; Wes Barnes 5-33, TD; Jayden McCormick 2-12; Matt Masala 3-12; Braden Heim 1-3
Preston Zachman 4-6-0, 113 yds, TD
Julian Fleming 3-81, TD; Gaige Garcia 1-32
First Downs: 21
UPPER DAUPHIN (12-1)
Jake Ramberger 16-86; Macklin Ayers 15-32, 3 TD’s; Hunter Lentz 1-5; Christian Snyder 1-2; Aidan Wiest 1-1; Kade Matter 2-(-5)
Macklin Ayers 7-11-0, 137 yds; Jake Ramberger 0-2-0; Tyler Cleveland 0-1-0
Jake Ramberger 4-63; Kade Matter 2-54; Sam Kerwin 1-20
First Downs: 9
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