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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, September 29th, 2018
By: Dave Fegley (9-29-18)
For as magnificent of offensive weapons as Julian Fleming and Gaige Garcia have been to this point of their careers, the Southern Columbia juniors continue to find even more ways to shine each week. On Friday night, the duo helped guide the Tigers to a dominant road victory in South Williamsport. “The field’s condition wasn’t good tonight, but we were able to find ways to score. There is still a lot of ways we can improve though. We need to execute better especially with blocking and hitting the holes in the run game,” said Garcia. That’s a pretty scary statement coming from a running back right after he scored five touchdowns in a win.
In the 54-20 Mercy Rule victory, Fleming became just the second receiver in District 4 history to go over 3,000 career receiving yards. John Klingerman of Bloomsburg is the other guy to hit that milestone and he did so in 2012. When asked about the feat, Fleming was pretty blunt. “Oh really? I didn’t even know. I just want to go for the PA record and win another state championship,” Fleming said after the game. The star receiver even had some of the opposing Mounties’ players surrounding him after the game to get pictures.
For the second straight week, the Tigers fell behind early on. After the Mounties scored on a 70-yard screen pass from AJ Flick to Chris Klem, SCA trailed 6-0 less than a minute into the game. “After that first score, we did a good job on defense of shutting them down,” Southern two-way starting lineman Lear Quinton stated. From that point forward, it was all Southern Columbia the rest of the way. The Garcia brothers scored four times in the opening quarter to put the Tigers ahead 27-6 and the state’s top-ranked team never looked back.
Southern’s Preston Zachman started at quarterback for the second week in a row, replacing injured Stone Hollenbach, and the junior didn’t disappoint. Two completions on the Tigers opening drive led to a five yard touchdown run by Gaige Garcia. The next drive was set up with a 58-yard pass to Fleming and then Gaige Garcia scored from eight yards out. Gaige’s younger brother, Gavin Garcia, scored on a 31-yard cutback run for the third score. The final score of the opening quarter came on a six yard pass from Zachman to Gaige across the middle.
Southern started the second quarter with a 15-yard touchdown connection from Zachman to Fleming. “You can’t say enough about how well Preston has played without any other varsity experience of throwing the ball before. He’s throwing the ball like he has been our quarterback forever and not just for two weeks,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. Zachman, who previously started at linebacker & receiver, threw up a jump ball in the end zone and Fleming just simply out-jumped the defender for that touchdown making the score 33-6.
On their ensuing offensive possession, Gaige Garcia put the Tigers up 40-6 on a 10-yard run. The only difference on that drive was a new quarterback under center. Who else, but Fleming himself. “We worked on it a little bit earlier in the week. Obviously there would be a lot of work to be done if I needed to play the position, but it was fun to try it and maybe you will see it again at some point,” Fleming said. The junior 5-star receiver only attempted one pass, but it got tipped away in the end zone and fell incomplete. “I saw Gavin in the end zone and the kid covering didn’t have the best angle, but I guess I just left the ball hang in the air too long,” Fleming said with a laugh.
Late in the first half, South Williamsport punter Zach Miller was standing in his own end zone after an SCA defensive stop. The sophomore bobbled a 4th-down snap and couldn’t get off a punt. As he tried to run for a first down, he was knocked out cold with a viscous hit from Tiger linebacker Cal Haladay. “He is going to be okay. They ran some tests and they came back good. It was just a hard hitting play and was a scare for sure,” said South Williamsport coach Chris Eiswerth. Miller was knocked unconscious after the perfectly legal collision that was heard throughout the stadium.
Still having another half of football to play, both teams had to regain their focus to the game. “There isn’t really much you can do. As a coach you just try to get the kids to refocus and go back out and compete. Fortunately from everything we heard the injured player seems to be doing okay, but you have to be extra careful with any injury when it is the head or neck,” said Roth. After leaving the stadium by ambulance on a stretcher, Miller will continue to be monitored in the upcoming week for concussion symptoms and hopefully the young man will make a return at some point this season.
The Tigers scored two touchdowns early in the third quarter to extend their lead to 54-6. Gaige Garcia scored his fifth touchdown of the game on a 46-yard run to cap off his night. “It all starts up front on the line. They lead the way, and we are going to continue to work at practice to get better,” Gaige said. After a three-and-out by the Tigers defense, Gavin Garcia scored on a 15-yard scamper on the final drive that the Southern starters played with just under under eight minutes left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, South Williamsport’s starters were able to take advantage of the SCA reserves by scoring twice. Luke Winner scored on a two yard run and Gannon Guerrisky, who coming in was leading District 4 in rushing yards, scored on a seven yard run. Guerrisky however was held to just 11 yards rushing in the first half against the Tigers starting defense, so his stat line was skewed. “The field was really muddy, but we were able keep our footing to stop their running game. We knew they liked to run so we wanted to shut that down,” said Quinton.
South Williamsport will travel to Central Columbia next week, but they know the toughest game of their season is now behind them. “They have different classifications for the very reason of what you saw in this game. We are proud of what we have done with the low numbers we have. No other school in the district has won more games than us besides Southern Columbia in the last eight years. From this point forward, things will slow down. We won’t see another team nearly as fast as this Tiger team we just faced,” Eiswerth said. The undefeated Tigers will host Jersey Shore next and will try to win a 68th consecutive regular season game which is the second longest in state history.
SCA: 27-13-14-0 = 54
SW: 6-0-0-14 = 20
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (6-0)
Gaige Garcia 12-109, 4 TD’s; Gavin Garcia 11-97, 2 TD’s; Ty Roadarmel 7-39; Julian Fleming 1-12; Preston Zachman 1-2; Braden Heim 2-12; Brandon Gedman 2-6; Jayden McCormick 5-5; Ron Zsido 1-0
Preston Zachman 8-10-0, 159 yds, 2 TD’s; Julian Fleming 0-1-0
Julian Fleming 6-137, TD; Gaige Garcia 2-22, TD
First Downs: 19
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT (4-2)
Gannon Guerrisky 14-99, TD; Luke Winner 6-20, TD; Zach Miller 1-8; Austin Nash 1-(-5)
A.J. Flick 5-17-1, 97 yds, TD; Landon Lorson 1-5-0, 9 yds
Chris Klem 2-66, TD; Cole Lentz 2-30; Austin Nash 1-10; Hunter Finn 1-0
First Downs: 11
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