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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, August 25th, 2018
By: Dave Fegley (8-25-18)
The first offensive play of the season for Southern Columbia was a 15-yard reception by Julian Fleming. The junior receiving star didn’t do anything spectacular on the play, but when he was tackled the Bloomsburg crowd was cheering. Were the Panthers’ fans just getting their hands loose for the season or are the defending state champion Tigers’ offensive threats just that lethal that when they don’t score, no matter what else the outcome, it’s an accomplishment for the opposition? Maybe an even more impressive takeaway is the fact that Bloomsburg played an above-average football game on both sides of the ball and still lost by 50.
Well if the stretching of the phalanges was the case, Bloomsburg’s fans were able to get the blood flowing in their knuckles for the first 12 plays of the season. Unfortunately on the 13th play, running back Gaige Garcia found what has become his second home over the past couple of years. The junior crossed the goal line from nine yards out to put the Tigers in front 7-0 with 7:38 left in the first quarter and from that point forward Jim Roth’s squad didn’t look back. “Overall for the first game I’m happy with the effort. Offensively we got better as the game progressed and I was happy with our defense against the run which we knew would be one of our strengths coming in,” said Roth.
That Tigers run defense was even more impressive than the juggernaut of an offense that they have. At halftime, Bloomsburg’s leading rusher had negative-4 yards which put him ahead of his other three teammates that had negative-8, negative-11, and negative-17 yards respectively. “We wanted to come out quick on all of our blitzes. That way it would help the secondary,” said linebacker Max Tillett. Along with Tillett, linebacker Cal Haladay and defensive end Lear Quinton each had at least four tackles for losses for SoCo’s pesky defense.
After forcing a 3-and-out to open the season on defense, Fleming returned a punt 65 yards to extend Southern’s lead to 14-0. Preston Zachman made it 21-0 to end the quarter when Stone Hollenbach found him for a 36-yard touchdown pass. “We just wanted to try some of the things we worked on all summer to see how we could execute. We struggled with some stuff, but for the most part it was pretty good,” Zachman said. Gaige Garcia pushed the lead to 28-0 in the second quarter when he stole an interception from a Bloomsburg defender in the end zone for the 21 yard touchdown grab. On the first touchdown pass, Hollenbach officially became the school’s all-time leader for touchdown passes by passing Nick Becker who set it in 2015.
Even with the result, there was one bright spot that the Panthers can hopefully take with them for the rest of the season, and that came at the arm of sophomore quarterback Jack Howell. The first year starter was able to find passing lanes for his receivers in the first half to have success. “We had pressure on their quarterback but at times we were giving up too much of a cushion in our coverages. It’s the first game and we are replacing starters in the secondary so I expect that to improve as the season continues,” said Roth.
Howell connected with fellow sophomore Brody Hock for a 70-yard pass to make the score 28-6 with 5:02 remaining in the first half. “Jack is a tough kid,” Bloomsburg coach Kevin Seabrook said. “In the future, he’s just going to be this awesome quarterback. There’s definitely some positives out of this game. Resiliency, honestly, I feel like that’s what our team is all about. We overcome, we adapt to whatever is going on, and move on to the upcoming play.”
On the Tigers ensuing possession, Gaige Garcia ran for an 81-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, that jaunt got called back due to a very questionable block in the back call. However, he wasn’t overtly upset because six plays later his young brother, freshman Gavin Garcia, was able to score his first career touchdown. “I got that long touchdown run called back which made me mad at first. Then a couple plays later seeing Gavin score his first touchdown made it worth it so I was happy for him,” said Gaige Garcia. The one yard run gave Southern a 35-6 halftime cushion.
In the third quarter, the Tigers defense picked up right where they left off in the first half. Tillett intercepted a pass inside Bloomsburg territory, and three plays later Gaige Garcia ran 16-yards to cap off his three touchdown night. That was the lone touchdown of the third quarter with Southern heading to the final frame in command 42-6 with the Mercy Rule chalked up.
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers reserves didn’t seem to miss a beat. Sophomore running backs Braden Heim and Brandon Gedman each found the end zone on 6 and 19 yard runs respectively. Senior first year kicker Ethan Dunkelberger made all eight of his extra points in the 56-6 victory for the state’s No. 1 ranked squad. “We still have some work to do. There’s a mixture of things like reading the holes and blocking that we will continue to work on. It’s the little things that we want to improve on each week,” Gaige Garcia said.
Next week, the Panthers will host Mifflinburg to try and pick up their first win of the season. The Tigers will head to the Silver Bowl next week for their much anticipated matchup against Mount Carmel Area. “Last year we had two good games with them so this one will be really hyped up. It’s at their place and there’s going to be a lot of fans so it should exciting to see,” Tillett said. The Tigers ended the Red Tornadoes season last year in the District 4 title game.
BLM: 0-6-0-0 = 6
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (1-0)
Gaige Garcia 11-149, 2 TD’s; Gavin Garcia 9-34, TD; Ty Roadarmel 5-21; Brandon Gedman 3-59, TD; Braden Heim 4-34, TD; Jayden McCormick 2-22; Cade Linn 1-2; Cal Haladay 1-1; Nate Crowl 1-(-1)
Stone Hollenbach 8-14-0, 172 yds, 2 TD’s
Julian Fleming 5-107; Preston Zachman 2-44, TD; Gaige Garcia 1-21, TD
First Downs: 25
Mason Lunger 6-14; Damon Rasmussen 3-6; Cooper Thrush 1-2; Hunter Coulter 2-(-2); Cade Klinger 5-(-3); Michael Widom 2-(-10); Jack Howell 6-(-38)
Jack Howell 10-17-1, 161 yds, TD; Michael Widom 1-1-0, 2 yds
Aiden Klinger 5-52; Jack Malatesta 3-21; Brody Hock 1-70, TD; Cade Klinger 1-18; Damon Rasmussen 1-2
First Downs: 9
Bloomsburg stats thanks to Damien Scoblink (PE)
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