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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, September 22nd, 2018
By: Dave Fegley (9-22-18)
Southern Columbia’s victory Friday night on the road against Central Columbia was a milestone for the program. The Tigers defeated their cross-county rival 54-27 to pick up the school’s 500th victory. Despite the fact that the final score appeared to be another typical Tiger cruise control victory, this one was one that the Tigers had to earn until ultimately seizing full control in the second half.
Last year, the Tigers outscored the Blue Jays in their regular season and playoff matchup by a combined score of 101-14. “Our guys came out with a different mindset than they had last year. Both games last year we got Mercy Ruled and we didn’t want to let that happen again,” Central coach Scott Dennis said. The Blue Jays haven’t beaten the Tigers since 1996, but the first 24 minutes appeared to show that Central had a shot.
On Friday night, Central Columbia scored more points against the state’s top-ranked Tigers in the first half then they did all of last season. The two teams headed to the locker room with the scoreboard showing a 20-20 tie and the Tigers now 66-game regular season winning streak hanging in jeopardy. “I told our kids at halftime that Southern was going to coming out in the second half like hornets and we just had to try to weather the storm,” said Dennis.
Of those 500 wins now for the Tigers, Southern Columbia’s coach Jim Roth had his hand in the majority of them. In the summer when asked about the upcoming feat, he made sure to give credit to players of the past and present. “It is definitely an achievement that a lot of great players can say that they have been a part of. We’ve been fortunate to have had countless amounts of dedicated players come through the system over the years that have worked to help earn each of those wins,” said the 35-year head coach that now has 417 of the wins.
Southern had a different man leading the charge this week as the quarterback. Senior starter Stone Hollenbach broke his non-throwing hand last week and is expected to miss up to six weeks. Taking over under center was Preston Zachman who was one of the team’s receivers and starting linebacker. “I felt comfortable going in. I’ve played quarterback almost my whole life before this so it was just regular for me,” Zachman said. In his debut, the junior was able to complete 80% of his passes with seven of those completions going to Julian Fleming.
Other than the surprising fact of Central hanging around in the first half, the referees were in the spotlight more than many evidently thought that they should have been. “We have to make sure to stay more disciplined. I’m sure it didn’t make the coaching staff very happy with some of those penalties but it is something that we will work on,” said SCA lineman John Stabinski. In total, there were 17 penalties called in the first half including eight personal fouls. Although the Tigers were on the guilty end of most of the calls, the majority of them appeared to be questionable at best.
The first four possessions of the game resulted in touchdowns. The Blue Jays took an early lead with a 24-yard touchdown run by Jack Schechterly. The Tigers then went in front 7-6 thanks to a four yard run by Gaige Garcia. Central regained the lead with a one yard run by Ky Seesholtz, and then Zachman ripped off a 46-yard touchdown scamper to make the score 13-13. “We didn’t have any trouble scoring throughout the game. The problem was we didn’t have the ball long enough because of Central’s first half effectiveness,” said Roth.
On Southern’s next possession, Zachman threw his first career touchdown pass. “A bunch of us have played with Preston up through midgets, junior high, and JV with his as quarterback so it wasn’t something that was new for us,” Tiger fullback Ty Roadarmel stated. Zachman rolled out on a play-action pass and connected with Fleming for a 17-yard touchdown pass. That touchdown gave the Tigers a one score advantage.
Late in the first half on the ensuing drive, the Blue Jays pulled out some trickery that paid off. “Our guys battled all night and they weren’t afraid of the opponent,” Dennis said. Leading rusher Isaac Gensemer took a pitch and then threw a halfback pass to a wide-open Eli Morrison for a 36-yard touchdown to tie the game at half.
Whatever was said in the SCA locker room at halftime definitely was taken to heart by the Tigers. “It was definitely a rude awakening, but we needed it. We can’t get cocky or look ahead. We need to stay focused on what our goal is,” said Stabinski. In the second half, Southern Columbia showed Central Columbia that when the Tigers are awake and focused, the Blue Jays aren’t nearly on the same level as the defending state champions.
Southern scored four unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game out of reach at 47-20. The touchdowns were all on the ground with runs of three yards by junior Gaige Garcia, 42 yards by freshman brother Gavin Garcia, five yards from Roadarmel, and four yards from the elder Garcia. “We were sleeping on them in the first half and they hit us in the mouth. Then in the second half we came out and played more as a team to pull away,” Roadarmel said.
Each team found the end zone a final time in the fourth quarter. Troy Johnson scored on a 33-yard burst to give the Blue Jays crowd something to cheer about in the second half, but at that point it was too late. The final touchdown of the game came on a 17-yard run by the younger Garcia to stretch the Tigers lead to double that of the Blue Jays for a 54-27 final. “With players being shifted around now due to the injury of Stone, I think there was some confusion in the first half. Now we will try to fix it moving forward,” said Zachman.
Although the teams won’t meet again this season in the postseason like last year, the Blue Jays earned the Tigers respect. “Give them credit for now laying down for us. They have a good staff that had them ready to play. Ultimately our guys just took over after halftime,” Roth said. Central, now a 3A school, travels to Danville next week. Southern, who is the king of 2A, will also take the road to South Williamsport.
The 500-win club isn’t that rare of a feat as there are 119 other high schools in Pennsylvania to have already reached the milestone. What does separate Southern Columbia from the rest of the pack is the fact that the Tigers are the only school on the list that has reached the milestone with a program starting after the year of 1960. Virtually every other school on the list started their football program in the late 1800’s or the early 1900’s.
SCA: 7-13-27-7 = 54
CEN: 6-14-0-7 = 27
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (5-0)
Gaige Garcia 16-133, 3 TD’s; Gavin Garcia 9-90, 2 TD’s; Preston Zachman 5-62, TD; Ty Roadarmel 5-22, TD; Braden Heim 1-20; Brandon Gedman 2-10
Preston Zachman 8-10-1 133 yds, TD
Julian Fleming 7-133, TD; Gavin Garcia 1-10
First Downs: 23
CENTRAL COLUMBIA (3-2)
Isaac Gensemer 17-56, Troy Johnson 7-55, 1 TD; Jack Schechterly 7-35, 1 TD; Ky Seesholtz 3-4, 1 TD; Trae Devlin 2-(4)
Trae Devlin 9-20-0, 102 yds; Isaac Gensemer 1-1-0, 35 yds, TD
Eli Morrison 4-71, TD; Isaac Gensemer 2-38, Jarod Verse 2-19, Zander Bradley 1-10, Ky Seesholtz 1-(-4)
First Downs: 16
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