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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, October 19th, 2019
By: Dave Fegley (10-19-19)
For the second week in a row, Southern Columbia spoiled a 2019 Homecoming. Last week Wyoming Area had to suffer through 48 minutes of playing the Tigers, and this week Montoursville was the victim as Southern Columbia crashed the party. “It’s very motivating. We still have more to prove but this just helps fuel the fire for what we want to be at the end of it all. We want to be state champs again,” said Southern lineman Lear Quinton.
The most impressive fact about it all is that the Tigers didn’t come in and just ruin the Homecoming of your average team. Southern Columbia did so again against a highly ranked opponent as they shutout Montoursville 35-0 in Mercy Rule fashion. “Our defense has been so impressive all season long. In the first half they didn’t allow Montoursville to get anything going,” SCA head coach Jim Roth said. “Montoursville has had a very successful season, so it made the effort that much more impressive.”
To summarize what the two-time defending PIAA Class 2A State Champions have done over the last seven days is pretty incredible. The Tigers went on the road, in enthusiastic environments, and shutout two opponents that each came in undefeated. Both Class 3A teams, Wyoming Area and Montoursville, both nicknamed the Warriors, came in to the matchups ranked top-five in the state according to the various polls. “Playing the best is what it is all about as a team. If you have the opportunity to play a tougher team, why wouldn’t you take advantage of that chance for the competition,” Roth said.
Neither opponent was on Southern’s original schedule, but the Tigers have tried to look for as many challenges that they can find. “We had three rescheduled games this season. We are looking for the best competition that we can get,” junior Tyler Waltman said. In the season opener, the Tigers played in South Carolina against a defending state champion. All three were true road tests, in front of sellout crowds, that were deemed as arguably the biggest home games in the respective program history for each.
Again folks, even though Southern Columbia is the program with the most PIAA titles, this year’s Tiger squad is a once in a lifetime type of talent. Throw Hammond into the equation, and without counting their losses given by SCA, the three opponents have a combined record of 23-1. The black and gold have officially outscored the trio, in three road games, 113-0 with each score lopsided enough to reach the Mercy Rule.
Southern, and both opponents, agreed to make midseason schedule changes to allow these games to happen to bulk their schedule in tougher games than their original opponents would have offered. “You get more out of games like this. As competitors, it doesn’t feel good to lose but you can use the motivation after a loss to spark your effort going forward,” said Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer.
During the first quarter of the Tigers most recent victory, senior Gaige Garcia broke SCA’s school record for career rushing yards. On a night where a king and queen were crowned by the host school, it was Garcia who grabbed the most important piece of headgear. “Southern Columbia has had some of PA’ greatest backs and to be up with those guys it’s just an honor. My freshman year that was one of my main goals and it’s a great feeling to finally be on top,” said Garcia. “The Goliath” already holds three career state records (total touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, and total points) but this school record could be even more special considering the backs that have came through the Tiger Dynasty.
Henry Hynoski was the school’s previous record holder with 7,165 yards. Garcia now has 7,263 yards with plenty of season left to play barring a playoff upset. Jerry Marks is a third Tiger to reach the 7,000-yard mark for a career. No other school in Pennsylvania history has had three backs reach the feat. “Gaige has been outstanding for us for four years now. Thankfully he’s stayed relatively injury free with the exception of the state championship game his freshman year,” Roth said. “In the tougher games, he gets better as the game goes on and that shows you the makeup of a true competitor and why he holds all these records.”
Although Garcia’s rushing record is deservedly the headline, Southern’s offense was sparked by the passing attack in the first quarter. Preston Zachman had the most efficient game of his career throwing the football to Julian Fleming. “I just felt really confident, but Julian helps with that. Having the #1 ranked player in the country to throw to makes me feel comfortable and confident back there,” Zachman said. “I felt like we were very balanced on offense which makes it very hard for the opposing defenses.”
To start off the game, the Tigers strung together a 10-play drive, mixed with the run and pass, to take a 7-0 lead with 6:57 left in the opening quarter. The score came from Fleming when he caught a short pass at the line and was able to beat the defense from 15 yards while diving to get inside the pylon. Earlier in the week, Fleming, who committed and was chosen as a captain for the Under Armour All-American game, moved up ESPN’s board to the top overall spot on in their national rankings.
After forcing a three and out on the Warriors first possession, the Tigers took a two-score lead. Zachman scored on a keeper around the end from 21 yards out. The Tigers defense continued to impress on the next drive against the second highest scoring team in the conference. Max Tillett had a sack and a tackle for loss. Cal Haladay also had a tackle for loss on the three-and-out. “It seemed like no matter if Montoursville tried to run inside or get the edge on the outside, Max and Cal were there to make a stop. Obviously it has become pretty common that if you don’t know who made the tackle, there is a good chance #8 and #28 are somewhere in the mix,” Roth said.
On the final play of the first quarter, Zachman threw his best pass of the season on the run to his favorite target. “It was a hitch and go and I knew I needed time to be able to throw it. Our line did a good job on the play. A defensive linemen broke threw a little late so I just rolled out a little to give myself some more time and just threw it having confidence in Julian,” said Zachman. “He made a very good play and made it look very easy. It’s not easy using your body to shield the defender like that and making a catch over the shoulder.” The 42-yard perfectly placed pass made the score 21-0.
In the second quarter, Southern started to wear down Montoursville with the running game after using the passing game as their top weapon early on. “We wanted to give Preston a lot of time to spread the ball around on the field to our skill players so we could eventually get more balanced,” Quinton said. Garcia scored on a four yard run, after another quick defensive stop led by Tillett, to extend the Tiger lead to 28-0. “We just keep going and going, and the defenses eventually start to break,” said Garcia.
Southern would take the lead into the halftime break with all of the confidence and showing the home crowd why they are the best. “It’s tough to explain, but I think we got better this week. We had a good week of practice, we were extremely focused because of who we were playing. Southern is just an unbelievable team that could compete on paper with some college programs,” Keefer said. Montoursville was held to negative-12 yards of offense in the first half and just one first down which came via a penalty.
The only score of the second half came with 8:47 left in the third quarter. On the Tigers first offensive play of the second half, Gavin Garcia got into the scoring column. The sophomore made the play of the game on a run that he appeared to be stopped after a couple of yards along Southern’s sideline. The speedster was able to shift gears and somehow get out of the clutter. The man that leads the team in yards per carry, crossed field and juked his way into the end zone while receiving a nice block from both Fleming and Zachman along the way. The 82-yard scamper put the game into the Mercy Rule after Ethan Haupt’s PAT made it 35-0.
For the remainder of the third quarter, the Tigers starting defense continued to bring the heat. The defensive line was breaking through on seemingly every play with the linebackers dominating along the perimeter. “The goal for us up front is to be the best defensive line in the state. We want to stop the run forcing the opponent to throw the ball,” said Waltman who had one of SCA’s five sacks. Through three quarters, the Warriors were still in negative yardage overall and didn’t earn a first down on their own. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when they were able to have a little success, but that came against the Tiger backups.
Montoursville will close out the regular season on Friday as they will take on Selinsgrove. The Warriors will then be the heavy favorites to repeat as District IV Class 3A champions. Southern Columbia, now winners of 80-consecutive regular season games, will have a stretch of home games coming up. The regular season finale will be against Danville, and then the Tigers will host all three of their District IV Class 2A games. That of course is unless a team can pull off the upset against SCA. There is probably a better chance of…well you get the point.
SCA: 21-7-7-0 = 35
MTV: 0-0-0-0 = 0
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (9-0)
Gavin Garcia 7-125, TD; Gaige Garcia 15-116, TD; Ty Roadarmel 7-24; Preston Zachman 2-19, TD; Matt Masala 2-9; Braden Heim 4-3; Wes Barnes 2-(-3)
Preston Zachman 8-9-0, 132 yds, 2 TD’s
Julian Fleming 7-123, 2 TD’s; Gavin Garcia 1-9
First Downs: 22
Rocco Pulizzi 11-22; James Batkowski 3-8; Hunter Shearer 5-(-19)
Hunter Shearer 3-10-0, 11 yds; Maddix Dalena 2-3-0, 33 yds
Marco Pulizzi 1-26; Dillon Young 1-10; Heath Jones 1-7; Cameron Wood 1-4; C.J. Signor 1-(-3)
First Downs: 5
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