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Written by: Dave Fegley on Thursday, December 9th, 2021
PIAA District 4 – Class AA
League: Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference – Division 3
Head Coach: Jim Roth
When it comes to playing for a PIAA Championship, there is no program across the commonwealth that is more familiar. The Tigers will play in a record 20th state final on Friday afternoon. The two teams tied for the second most, Cathedral Prep and Thomas Jefferon each with nine, don’t equal that amount combined. Southern is looking to win five straight PIAA Championships, something that has only ever been accomplished one other time in the Keystone State’s history. The Tigers also won five in a row from 2002-2006.
In SCA’s previous two wins this season, the Tigers have beaten both opponents by 42 points. The program’s all-time state championship game record is 11-8 with six wins coming in Class 1A and the last five in Class 2A. Overall, this is the seventh straight season that Southern will represent the eastern part of 2A in Hershey since being moved up a class in 2014, the only year that they haven’t made it in the higher classification.
How they got to Hershey:
Sr. Gavin Garcia – 2,255 rushing yards, 38 TD’s
Jr. Braeden Wisloski – 887 rushing yards, 10 TD’s
Jr. Wes Barnes – 858 rushing yards, 14 TD’s
Sr. Jake Rose – 541 receiving yards, 8 TD’s
So. Garrett Garcia – 198 tackles, 5.5 sacks
Sr. Derek Berlitz – 90 tackles, 12 sacks
Fr. Dominic Fetterolf – 136 tackles, 2 INT’s
Offensive keys to winning:
Take care of the football. After turning the ball over five times in their only regular season loss in a decade, the Tigers have turned the ball over just four times in their five postseason games. Serra Catholic has forced an incredible 20 turnovers over the past three weeks.
Although the four-time defending PIAA champions haven’t had to throw the ball often, establishing a successful passing game early will keep the Eagles from loading the box which will make room for the three-headed monster of the Tiger backfield to get into space behind a veteran offensive line.
Last week, all three backs (Wisloski, Barnes, and Garcia) eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark as the team only had to attempt two passes. With Jim Roth (PA’s all-time winningest coach) calling out the plays, expect the offense to be clicking on all cylinders.
Defensive Keys to winning:
Get a push from the defensive line. With the team’s two leading tacklers being the inside-linebackers, Southern can free up their athletic second line to make stops if the front four plays physical. With their opponent being a balanced offense, allowing the back seven to focus on assignments will go a long way in executing the plan on defense.
The Tigers have registered 35 sacks and 46 hurries thus far and want to continue to bring the heat on the opposing quarterback. Garcia is approaching the 200-tackle milestone on the year, and Berlitz is two sacks away from the program’s single-season record.
Having a defensive coordinator like Andy Mills, who has been in the position for all 38 years of Roth’s tenure, calling out signals provides the defense with confidence as this is the 20th time SCA has been in the state final.
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