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No Surprise, Southern Columbia Undefeated Again

Written by: on Saturday, October 27th, 2018

 

PHAC Champs collide to close out regular season

By: Dave Fegley (10-27-18)

The last time Southern Columbia lost a regular season football game was 2,557 days ago. That number will continue to rise as the Tigers won a 71st consecutive regular season game to finish out the regular season against the PHAC Division 2 Champion Danville Ironmen. “It is always good to go into the playoffs on a positive note. The two previous games we played against teams that struggled this year, so to get a matchup against a successful Danville team, heading in to the playoffs, is great preparation for our players,” said Southern coach Jim Roth who is obviously no stranger to winning.

The scariest part of Friday night’s regular season finale, on the week leading up to Halloween, was the fact that the PHAC Division 3 Champion Tigers played far from a perfect game. They did so against a fellow division champion and still won in Mercy Rule fashion 49-7. “I thought our defense played outstanding. Most people might think that sounds silly when you lose by as much as we did, but our run defense was very impressive,” said Danville coach Jim Keiser. “You know coming in that you have to stop the Garcia brothers. I know Gaige finished with over 100 yards, but he had to work hard for every one of those yards.”

After the Ironmen jumped out to a 7-0 lead with the momentum on their home turf, the Tigers most dangerous weapon on the outside, Julian Fleming, showed why he is the top rated junior recruit in the country. “I always tell our quarterback that he can’t over-throw me. Just get it out there as far as he can on those long pass plays and it’s my job to do the rest,” Fleming said. He went over 1,000 yards receiving on the season toward the end of the first quarter.

During a week that included Michigan’s head coach Jim Harbaugh coming to SCA on his bye week, and coaches from Alabama and Ohio State, all to try and make a push to impact Fleming’s collegiate decision, he capped off the week with arguably the best overall game of his career. Offensively he caught nine passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, he intercepted two passes including one that he returned 31 yards for a touchdown. “It was good prep for the playoffs to go up against a team that passes as much as they do,” said Fleming.

Somebody has to get Fleming the ball on offense however. “He’s such a great athlete and it makes it a lot easier to come back from an injury when you have a target like him to throw to,” said Southern quarterback Stone Hollenbach. After a five week absence with a broken non-throwing hand, Hollenbach returned as the quarterback and the duo didn’t seem to miss a beat. “I was glad I could come back right before the playoffs to get a game in to get back in the groove against a high-quality opponent,” the quarterback said.

After breaking the school record for the most points ever scored over a two week span (138 pts), the Tigers appeared out of character to start the regular season finale. “Early on, we didn’t do a good job with our pass defense. I thought we definitely improved on it however as the game went on,” said Roth. “The main problem though was our execution up front blocking on offense. For whatever reason, we looked good in pass blocking but our run blocking was a concern. Our backs were getting hit way too quickly.”

The Ironmen scored their lone touchdown of the game on an 11-yard run by quarterback K.J. Riley to go up 7-0 with 8:41 left in the first quarter. The run came two plays after Riley connected with Peyton Persing on a 57-yard pass. Danville then successfully recovered an onside kick. Unfortunately for the home team, that was when the defending state champions woke up. “We didn’t come out playing our best football early. Eventually we settled down and started making plays,” said SCA defensive back Shane Miller.

Danville missed a 32-yard field goal to try and go up by two scores, and then the rest was history. “I was happy with how we came out, but eventually Southern Columbia showed why they are the best team in the state and haven’t lost a regular season game in forever,” Keiser said. Unfortunately for SCA, on the second drive by the Ironmen, Tiger linebacker Nate Crowl left the game with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury. He will have to go to get x-rays to find out the severity of it.

Hollenbach’s first pass of the game was a 63-yard connection with Fleming to tie the score at 7-7. Then three plays later, Southern took the lead for good when Fleming intercepted a pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. After Shane Miller intercepted a K.J. Riley pass on the ensuing drive, Gaige Garcia scored on a one-yarder to put the Tigers up 21-7 after one quarter. “It is all about making big plays in big games. Anything I can do to help my team really makes me feel good,” said Miller.

After a scoreless second quarter, Fleming started the second half with three receptions from Hollenbach. A play after a Danville defender dropped an interception thrown by Hollenbach, the senior found Fleming for a 48-yard catch to extend the Tigers lead to 28-7. “The opposing student section was trying to get in my head again I guess, but you can’t let that get to you. You just have to ignore it and let your play do the talking,” said Fleming. Preston Zachman, who now has moved back to receiver from quarterback, added three receptions on the night to provide a legitimate second option opposite of Fleming on the outside.

Later on in the quarter, before Gavin Garcia (1-yard run) and Gaige Garcia (6-yard run) helped put the game into the Mercy Rule on touchdown carries, there was a sequence that took place that was as bizarre as they come. “That was an odd scenario that you don’t see often. Actually it may be the only time we ever see it happen in a game and I don’t remember seeing it before,” said Roth who has been the head coach at Southern for over three decades.

Danville was returning a punt. The ball bounced off of one of their players that was trying to get out of the way. As the Tigers went to recover it, the ball squirted into the end zone off of a player’s foot. It was recovered by Southern’s Ty Roadarmel in the end zone for an apparent touchdown. After kicking an extra point, the refs huddled for a discussion. Following a few minutes of talking, they took the touchdown off the board and gave the Ironmen the ball back at their own 20-yard line.

An official explained the call after the game. “Since the ball hit off of a returners leg, the ball became live. However, by the time the ball was recovered it was in the end zone without either team having maintained possession of the ball,” said one of the referees. “The ruling is that once it gets in the end zone without possession at the high school level, it becomes a touchback. Even though the extra point was kicked, the call could still be changed afterward because it was an untimed down.”

With the Mercy Rule in check, Braden Heim scored the only touchdown of the fourth quarter on a four yard carry to make it a 49-7 final. Danville will host Warrior Run next Saturday night at home to start their District IV AAA playoff run. Southern Columbia will go for their record 26th District IV title. As the top seed in AA, they will play at home against Line Mountain. “Now it is time to go out and see what we can do during the postseason. The guys know what is at stake and what it took to win it all last year,” said Roth who is looking for a 9th state championship.

SCA: 21-0-21-7 = 49
DAN: 7-0-0-0 = 7

SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (10-0)
Rushing:
Gaige Garcia 17-116, 2 TD’s; Ty Roadarmel 5-28; Stone Hollenbach 2-26; Gavin Garcia 8-10, TD; Braden Heim 4-19, TD; Jayden McCormick 2-10; Nate Kearney 2-8; Brandon Gedman 1-2
Passing:
Stone Hollenbach 13-21-0, 212 yds, 2 TD’s
Receiving:
Julian Fleming 9-164, 2 TD’s; Preston Zachman 3-46; Ty Roadarmel 1-2
First Downs: 18
Penalties: 7-60

DANVILLE (8-2)
Rushing:
K.J. Riley 1-11, TD; Jagger Dressler 3-4; Eric Sees 4-3; Carter Conmy 1-0; Jayden Diven 2-(-1); Peyton Persing 5-(-13)
Passing:
K.J. Riley 12-31-3, 168 yds
Receiving:
Peyton Persing 3-108; Shane Kozick 4-36; Peyton Riley 1-12; Sees 3-9; Ian Persing 1-3.
First Downs: 6
Penalties: 7-65

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