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Written by: Dave Fegley on Friday, November 27th, 2020
The Skinny (strengths, weaknesses, the stars):
For Southern Columbia: The Tigers were doubted by many to get back to their favorite destination, but Jim Roth’s program is back in Hershey for a record 19th time. Replacing nearly all of the offensive weapons from last year’s record-breaking squad, junior Gavin Garcia has taken over the role of the number one option. The returning all-state selection is having another outstanding season.
Gavin Garcia has followed up his all-state season a year ago with even better numbers this year. The junior has 1,706 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns. He is averaging more than 17 yards per carry. His backfield mates, sophomore Braeden Wisloski and Wes Barnes, have been effective combining for 1,234 and 21 touchdowns on the ground. The Tigers don’t throw the ball often, but Liam Klebon is completing 51% of his passes for 504 yards and 7 touchdowns. Jake Davis leads the team with 3 receiving touchdowns and Jake Rose has 7 receptions to lead all pass catchers. The Tigers average 50.4 points per game.
The defense for SCA has once again been impressive. The starters didn’t give up a single touchdown during the regular season or District 4 playoffs. Freshman Garrett Garcia has been stout as a run-stopper and leads the team with 89 tackles followed by fellow inside linebacker Wade Kerstetter with 58. Derek Berlitz leads the team with 7 sacks and 13 hurries. The Tigers secondary of Jake Davis, Ian Yoder, and Nick Zeigler have combined for 13 interceptions.
For Wilmington: The Greyhounds passed their toughest test of the season by holding off a powerful Beaver Falls rushing attack to get back to the PIAA Class 2A Championship for the third time in the last four years. Wilmington, who lost to Southern in the 2017 and 2018 final, is loaded with experience. The Greyhounds return all but two starters on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, the senior duo of Ethan Susen and Darren Miller have jolted the offense. Susen has rushed for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns and Miller has added 1,037 yards and 14 scores. Susen also leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns through the air (14-326-4). His backfield partner has complied 1,039 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Caelan Bender has been effective with both his arm and legs. The senior has thrown for 530 yards and seven touchdowns while throwing just one interception all year. He has all added 492 yards on the ground and 8 TD’s.
On defense, the Greyhounds have given up just 13.5 points per game. Darren Miller leads the team with 63 tackles followed by Caelan Bender with 50. Ethan Susen has 4 interceptions in the secondary for Wilimington. Weston Phanco has been a force up front as he leads the team with 4 sacks and has 46 tackles.
Southern Columbia Offense Plan:
Jim Roth’s Tigers need to establish a passing game early to keep the Greyhounds from stacking the box. Klebon hasn’t had a 100-yard passing game this season, but if the junior can get things going early, the three-time defending champs will be hard to stop. Don’t expect the Tigers to rebreak the PIAA championship point total that they set last year (76 pts) but if they keep the Hounds on their heels the athletes are there.
Southern Columbia Defensive Plan:
Southern has been disciplined all season long when it comes to the players playing their areas. In an offense like Wilmington runs, it will be vital that the outside linebackers and cornerbacks keep the edge. The interior of the defense needs to clog the gaps to help shutdown all areas of the Greyhound rushing attack.
Wilmington Offensive Plan:
If Wilmington can defeat Southern for the first time in three attempts in Hershey, they are going to need to control the clock and tempo. Southern can’t score if their offense is on the sidelines. Behind a college-size offensive line, the Greyhounds want to run the ball on the Tigers which is something that no team has had success against the Tigers with in seemingly a decade.
Wilmington Defensive Plan:
Brandon Phillian knows that his team must win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Arguably the most important matchup in this Class 2A final will be in the trenches. The Greyhounds front seven can’t allow the Tigers offensive line to open holes for the most explosive backfield in the state to get through.
Head Coach: Jim Roth Head Coach Brandon Phillian
How They Got to Hershey
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