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Roth Ties State Win Mark

Written by: on Saturday, November 21st, 2020

 

Tigers heading to Hershey again

Jim Roth didn’t need another win to leave his mark as the greatest high school football coach in Pennsylvania history. The Southern Columbia mastermind had earned that right long before tying George Curry for the most wins in the state’s history on Saturday by defeating Bishop McDevitt 42-14 to reach a record 19th PIAA championship game. However, now in his 37th season as the engineer of the championship factory, this may indeed be the most impressive job that he has done along with his veteran staff.

After graduating the most successful senior class in the program’s history, and needing to replace nearly all of their starters from last year’s HSFA National Champion squad, Southern Columbia is now just one win away from a record 11th PIAA gold and fourth in a row. “We knew we would still be a solid team, but looking at all the talent that we lost, there was some doubt in how this new group would handle the transition to taking over for a group that included six Division 1 athletes,” said Roth after his 455th win. “Some people look at it like they expect us to get to Hershey each year and it certainly isn’t easy. The majority of our players are first year starters and you never know for sure how certain kids will respond to the challenge.”

Andy Mills, who has been the defensive coordinator during Roth’s entire tenure, had his defense ready to stop the Royal Lancers rushing attack that had been very successful the last two games. “This whole winning thing isn’t just me. I would not have had this opportunity without the staff that I have. That goes for the current coaches and anyone else that has helped earlier in my career. As for Andy, he has been with me since day one,” Roth said. SCA’s defense held Bishop McDevitt to negative yardage on the ground in the win.

Two players that were key pieces on last year’s team are junior running back Gavin Garcia and senior defensive back Jake Davis. In addition to Roth’s milestone, this pair of Tigers accomplished something as well to go into the history books. Davis intercepted a pass early in the third quarter giving him 17 for his career. That tied Cam Young’s school record that was set in 2017. “It really feels amazing to be able to get to that mark in a game like this. My coaches pushed me throughout my whole career. I’m just grateful for everything that has happened for me as a Tiger and all of us seniors want to add another title to the best program ever,” said Davis.

After falling behind 6-0 early on an Emmanuel Sia 12-yard catch from Nick Santo, and having to punt on their first possession, the Tigers got on the scoreboard with 5:47 remaining in the first quarter. Garcia took a handoff and raced 58 yards to the end zone on the first play of Southern’s second possession to give the defending champs the lead for good. Garcia, who finished the game with four rushing touchdowns, had his first career 200-yard rushing performance against the Royal Lancers.

Southern’s second touchdown was setup thanks to Jake Rose’s one-handed catch. The junior pulled in a Liam Klebon pass for 33 yards in a way that even Odell Beckham Jr. would have been in awe of. “That was a really great catch. It definitely looked cool watching him bring it in with just the one hand,” Klebon said. Two plays later, Braeden Wisloki put the Tigers in front 14-6 on a two-yard run. From that point, starting with Rose’s grab, the Tigers had momentum and the Royal Lancers started to make some mistakes that would carry with them for the remainder of the afternoon at Selinsgrove’s Harold L. Bolig Memorial Field.

The lone touchdown of the second quarter came on a 52-yard jaunt courtesy of Garcia. The magician spun off of two tackle attempts to give SCA a 21-6 halftime lead. “Having three great runners like we do, none of us carry the bulk of the load,” said Garcia. “With not many handoffs to go around, you just do the best you can on each attempt. I’m happy for this team and happy to finally get over that 200-yard mark in a game,” said Garcia who currently is on pace to break the state record for yards per carry in a career.

Garcia’s third touchdown of the afternoon came with 9:38 remaining in the third quarter on a run of 34 yards. Just over two minutes later, Wisloski caught a 47-yard touchdown pass leaving a Bishop McDevitt defender in the dust on a tackle attempt. Garcia would score his final touchdown with under a minute remaining in the third quarter on a four-yard plunge. “I thought that our line did a really good job as the game went on. They were big up front and gave us some issues early, but then we settled down and got things going in our favor. We need our line to play their best game next week and I am confident that they will,” Wisloski said.

After Isaac Carter’s PAT following Garcia’s final touchdown, Southern put the game into the Mercy Rule at 42-6. Remarkably, it became the 30th consecutive game that the Tigers have won in that fashion. “It has been really fun. I have been starting to get more confident throwing the ball. I didn’t have as much confidence earlier this year,” said Klebon. “We have one final step to reach our goal and we just need to keep playing like we have been.”

The Royal Lancers added a late fourth quarter touchdown, Keon Kenner’s six yard plunge, which could be the final touchdown that is ever scored by the champions out of District 12. Earlier this week, the Philadelphia archdiocese announced that the school will most likely be closing for good at the end of this school year. “We struggled to execute after that first touchdown. I was happy with the way we started the game, but then they just took over,” said Royal Lancers coach Mike Watkins. “Our kids battled all year, and I am proud of this group for getting us further than we ever had been before in Bishop McDevitt history.”

Southern Columbia, who is playing in a sixth consecutive PIAA Class 2A Championship next Saturday in Hershey, now has won 59-consecutive games dating back to their last loss in the 2016 state final. The Tigers will take on a familiar foe in Wilmington. SCA took down the Greyhounds in the 2017 and 2018 championship games. “I am happy for our seniors that are starting for the first time this year. Everyone wants to play their final career game in Hershey and they have earned that opportunity,” said Garcia.

It would only be fitting that Roth could break the win record at a place that he knows more than any other coach by a wide margin. If the Tigers are victorious at Hersheypark Stadium, they would become just the second team in the history of the Keystone State to compile a 60-consecutive game winning streak. “They have another very strong team this year and are well coached. I can reflect on my coaching career when it is over. Right now, the only thing we are worried about is coming up with a plan to go out and beat Wilmington,” Roth said.

Southern Columbia 42, Bishop McDevitt 14

                                  BM                  SCA

First downs                 7                      18

Rushes-yards               19-(-6)             44-336

Passing yards              121                  84

Total yards                  115                  420

Passing (C-A-I)           9-31-2              4-7-0

Penalties                      13-90               8-65

Fumbles/lost                3-1                   4-2

BOX SCORE:

MCDEVITT (4-2): 6 – 0 – 0 – 8 — 14

SOUTHERN (11-0): 14 – 7 – 21 – 0 —  49

Scoring

BM —  Emmanuel Sia, 12-yard pass from Nick Santo (missed kick)

SC —  Gavin Garcia, 58-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)

SC —  Braeden Wisloski, 2-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)

SC —  Gavin Garcia, 52-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)

SC —  Gavin Garcia, 34-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)

SC —  Braeden Wisloski, 47-yard pass from Liam Klebon (Isaac Carter kick)

SC —  Gavin Garcia, 4-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)

BM —  Keon Kenner, 6-yard run (Mehki Watson two-points)

Individual Statistics 

RUSHING: MCDEVITT — James Bermudez 7-16; Keon Kenner 2-8, TD; Corey Wright-Downing 1-0; Khyrie Isaac 1-(-2); Akire Lilley 4-(-11); Nick Santo 4-(-17). SOUTHERN — Gavin Garcia 12-205, 4 TDs; Wes Barnes 15-79; Braeden Wisloski 8-47, TD; Liam Klebon 3-4; Matt Masala 2-3; Trevor Yorks 2-1; Ian Yoder 2-(-3).

PASSING: MCDEVITT — Nick Santo 9-31-2, 121 yds, TD. SOUTHERN — Liam Klebon 4-7-0, 84 yds, TD.

RECEIVING: MCDEVITT — Gilbert Kinsley 1-44; Khyrie Isaac 1-28; Emmanuel Sia 2-22, TD; Joachim McElroy 3-19; Mekhi Watson 1-9; Akire Lilley 1-(-1). SOUTHERN — Braeden Wisloski 1-47, TD; Jake Rose 1-33; Wes Barnes 2-4.

 

GALLERY Gregory Ricupero

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