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Written by: Dave Fegley on Monday, August 19th, 2019
Undefeated Season Memorable For Tigers
By Dave Fegley (12-28-18) — Posted: 8-19-19
Before the 2017 season, no kicker in Pennsylvania high school football history had ever made 100 extra points in a season. Not only has Southern Columbia produced the first one ever, but the Tigers have produced two different kickers in back to back seasons to reach the feat. The record-breaking offense drew most of the headlines, but the defense was just as good. Heck, maybe even better. “If you look at the numbers that our starting defense gave up this season, it really is remarkable. Statistically, most of the yards that the opponents gained came in the second half with our starters being on the sidelines,” said Southern’s hall of fame head coach Jim Roth. Other than a 97-yard drive allowed in the first quarter of this year’s state final against Wilmington, Southern’s starting defense protected the end zone as well as the POTUS’ security team. “I think the one big aspect that helped the defense was their preparation each week either to the scouting reports or film study,” defensive coordinator Andy Mills said. “We constantly stressed what each player’s responsibility was. Our defense also stayed fairly healthy which went a long way to developing continuity.”
The debates have already begun of whether this was the best Tigers team ever. That’s not something we are going to get into. Whether you consider the 2006, 2017, 2018, or another team the best in program history, the bottom line is Southern Columbia ended the calendar year at the pinnacle of the Keystone State for an expanded record ninth time and second in a row. “That is the culture of our football program. We expect to win a state championship each year. You need to have that motivation in order to reach your goals and outwork every team in your path to get there,” said star running back Gaige Garcia. Here is a look at how the gridiron stars finished perfect on the season again:
Week 1: Bloomsburg
Since the PIAA made the change to just one preseason scrimmage a couple of years ago, the Tigers coaching staff used this opener as an extra scrimmage as the Tigers rolled to a Mercy Rule lead at the half. Gaige Garcia rushed for 12 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns. The defense started the season by giving up negative-36 yards on the ground as the Tigers mauled the Panthers 56-6.
Week 2: Mount Carmel
In a game Southern struggled to run the ball, it was Julian Fleming showing what he does best in SCA’s 41-7 victory over the home Red Tornadoes. The junior caught three touchdown passes and had 113 yards receiving. Max Tillett and Cal Haladay carried the defense by combining for 30 tackles in the win. “Any time we play Mount Carmel it is a battle. Both programs are known for great traditions and you want to do your best in that game,” said Tillett. Both teams knew that this wouldn’t be the only time they would see each other in 2018.
Week 3: Selinsgrove
Gavin Garcia touched the ball just three times in the game, but he found the end zone on each of those touches. His two rushing scores totaled 95 yards and he caught a 26-yard touchdown against the District IV 4A finalists as the defense posted a shutout. The Seals were outmatched as the black and gold won 48-0.
Week 4: Shamokin
An anticipated matchup against an Indians team coached by three former SCA coaches and players was one that didn’t live up to the hype. “We played a great game all-around. There was a lot of hype with Henry Hynoski coming back to his alma-mater as the Shamokin coach and we just took it to them,” said defensive lineman Robert Williams. The Tigers, who won 48-0 for the second straight week, simply did what they wanted, how they wanted, and whenever they wanted as they got contributions from everywhere.
Week 5: Central
Preston Zachman got his first start at quarterback due to a broken hand of senior quarterback Stone Hollenbach. With a handful of changes due to swapping positions, the Tigers were able to turn a tie game at the half into a blowout in the second half. “Give Central credit for the way they played in the first half,” Roth said. “I do think though that with all of our changes in positions it had a negative impact until the guys got adjusted and came out in control after the half.” .The Tigers downed the Blue Jays 54-27.
Week 6: South Williamsport
On the road with a bad playing surface due to heavy rains, Gaige Garcia was still able to lead the offense with four rushing touchdowns and another one receiving. Other than an early screen pass for a touchdown on the first drive, the Tigers defense was dominant. The Mounties added two late touchdowns against the Tiger backups, but SCA was able to win big 54-20.
Week 7: Jersey Shore
The Tigers showed their authority against the eventual District IV 4A champs by controlling both sides of the ball. The Tigers were dominant in a 62-7 victory over the Bulldogs on Jim Roth Field. On offense, the Garcia brother each rushed for over 100 yards and combined for seven touchdowns as the Tigers racked up 613 yards of offense. Cade Linn had eight tackles from his safety position.
Week 8: Shikellamy
It became well-known across District IV that the Braves were doing everything they possibly could to not have to play the Tigers during offseason scheduling. The confidence level had to be low for the 4A Shikellamy squad as the smaller 2A Southern team dismantled the Braves. Cal Haladay broke the school record for career tackles in the win. “It is an honor to hold that kind of a record at a school as great as Southern. There have been a lot of outstanding players that have played here,” Haladay said after a 69-7 win.
Week 9: Hughesville
In a game that Preston Zachman had to complete just three passes, all of them to Julian Fleming (103 yards), the Tigers ran for a season-high 474 yards against the Spartans. Gavin Garcia averaged nearly 23 yards per carry, and the starting defense held up strong all night. The Spartans only found the end zone once as the home Tigers rolled to victory 69-8
Week 10: Danville
A matchup between two PHAC divisional champions proved that the Tigers were on another level than the Ironmen. In Hollenbach’s return from injury, Fleming stole the show. “I want people to know that I want to compete at the highest level that I am capable of. You can’t take plays off if you want to be successful and I like to contribute in all phases of the game,” said Fleming. He caught nine passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, he intercepted two passes and returned both for scores as the Tigers won 49-7 in their regular season finale.
Week 11: Line Mountain
The Tigers defense started off the playoff run with a statement. The Eagles were held to just 15 yards rushing and didn’t complete a single pass. Ty Roadarmel had his first two touchdown game from his fullback position. With the offensive line starting to mesh better, the Tigers beat the Eagles 55-0.
Week 12: Troy
Julian Fleming scored twice on offense and once on defense as the Tigers tore away from the Trojans early on. Wade Kerstetter had a team-high 10 tackles for a defense that gave up just 114 yards in the district semi-final. “We wanted to make sure to not take plays off. On any play we all try to get to the ball, but we also know our rules and roles,” Kerstetter said. SCA scored 69 points for the third time in five weeks as the final score resulted in a 69-16 landslide.
Week 13: Mount Carmel
A rematch of last year’s District IV 2A final provided the same result. A close game at the half, and the Tigers pulled away after the break. “The Tornadoes are a very good team. They are definitely one of the top teams in the state, but unfortunately for them only one team advances to the state playoffs,” Roth said. All three of Stone Hollenbach’s touchdown passes came on fourth down plays. Cal Haladay and Max Tillett once again steered a dominant defensive effort combining for 21 tackles in claiming another district championship. The Tigers won their 26th title in 28 years by a final score of 39-14.
Week 14: York Catholic
In a first ever meeting between the Tigers and Fighting Irish, Southern Columbia showed York Catholic why they were the reigning heavyweight champion. With a starting defense that held the Irish to just one touchdown, the offense produced a season-high 621 yards. “We were clicking on all cylinders. The line blocked well and we were having our way on the ground and in the air. It makes it tough when we have different options that can all result in big plays,” said freshman Gavin Garcia. The Garcia Brothers rushing, and Julian Fleming and Preston Zachman receiving, each had over 100 yards in the game. The scoreboard showed 56-23 when the clock hit zero, but the Tigers dominated more than the score appeared.
Week 15: West Catholic
The only previous meeting between the Tigers and Burrs was in 2015 when SCA won in the same game. In this year’s PIAA Class 2A Eastern Final, the defense shut down West Catholic’s rushing attack. Max Tillett had two sacks and an interception from his linebacker spot as well as leading the team in tackles. On the defensive line, Lear Quinton and Cole Schankweiler stepped up by controlling the line of scrimmage throughout the course of the night. “We knew if we could shut their run game down they would have to throw,” Schankweiler said. “That allowed us to get pressure on the quarterback to get sacks and force lots of turnovers.” Jim Roth’s team won 42-6.
Week 16: Wilmington
In a rematch of last year’s PIAA Class 2A State Championship, the Tigers and Greyhounds went to halftime tied at 14-14. In the second half Gaige Garcia took over and finished with five touchdowns. His younger brother Gavin scored the other two. Senior defensive back Shane Miller had two second half interceptions for the Tigers as they didn’t allow Wilmington to find the end zone over the final two quarters. “It was just an awesome feeling. I won’t ever forget about this experience of what we accomplished this season. As a senior, it doesn’t get better than this,” Miller said. Max Tillett had a game-high 13 tackles. The Mercy Rule victory for the second year in a row, this time 49-14, gave SCA their ninth state championship to extend their state record.
Top of the Country:
Southern Columbia’s football program is obviously as well-known as any in Pennsylvania. On Christmas Eve, they became well-known around the entire country by High School Football America. The Tigers were chosen as the top Small School team in the United States by the organization. “Southern has been known as one of the best football programs in the state. Now we can say that we are the best in the country,” said senior Troy Donlan. HSFA picked Southern as the top team followed by Newton (Texas) and Madison County (Florida) in their Final 25 rankings of 2018. This is the first time ever that one of Jim Roth’s teams has finished at the top in the national rankings of a national poll.
To cap off the 2018 championship season, Julian Fleming found himself in rare company. The junior became just the fifth player to be named the Class 2A Player of the Year by the PA Sportswriters twice. He joins the small list that includes Clairton’s Tyler Boyd, Cathedral Prep’s Joe Mischler, South Williamsport’s Dominic Bragalone, and South Fayette’s Brett Brumbaugh as the other two-time winners. If Fleming was to win it again next season, he would be the first ever three-time winner. “He gets it done on offense, defense, and special teams. We haven’t ever had someone as talented as him in our program. From an athletic standpoint, Julian can just do it all and at times makes it look so effortless. One part of his game that gets overlooked is how good he is as a blocker from the outside,” said his head coach. If Fleming wasn’t on the team, there is a really good chance that fellow junior Gaige Garcia would have been in the same position as a two-time winner.
Fleming, who is ranked as the top junior recruit in the country by multiple recruiting services, also became the first Tiger to ever win another award. He was chosen as the 2018 Gatorade Pennsylvania Football Player of the Year. The award is given to just one player in each state no matter what classification you are in. “I am blessed to be able to play this great game. It is an honor to have your name being brought up with some of the best to ever play the game. I was looking at some of the past winners and its crazy seeing some of the names of guys to win this award that have gone on to have success in college and the NFL,” said Fleming. Recently the most-coveted recruit has narrowed his college choices down to ten including Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, USC, and Virginia Tech.
Besides Fleming, there are two other juniors that have received scholarship offers at the Division-1 level. Cal Haladay has been offered by Michigan among some other smaller schools. Gaige Garcia, who has been offered by some well-known wrestling schools, received his first offer from Colgate who plays in the Patriot League. “It’s awesome to be able to get this opportunity. Not many schools have more than one player getting recruited to play at the highest level in college. You have to be hungry and motivated to give everything that you can at all times,” said Haladay. Two other juniors, Max Tillett and Preston Zachman, have been in contact with some recruiters at the next level and are anxiously waiting to get a call. “We all put in a lot of work in the offseason. We go to camps and combines and then do a lot of training also. Our dream is to be able to play at the next level and hopefully we can do that,” said Gaige Garcia who has been receiving a lot of interest from Oklahoma, Nebraska, NC State, and others on the mat.
Double Barrel Shotgun:
It’s always better to have more than one. Well, maybe not always, but in the case of quarterbacks the more the merrier. Stone Hollenbach, a senior captain, returned this year for his third season steering Southern Columbia’s offense. Unfortunately, the record-setting quarterback only lasted for three and a half games before breaking his non-throwing hand. “It was definitely frustrating to have to watch from the sidelines. I wanted to be in there with my teammates. When I returned, it gave me more motivation knowing that nothing is a given,” said Hollenbach. The Tigers then had to put the trust at the arm of junior Preston Zachman. Although Zachman had played quarterback all the way up through junior high, he was switched to wide receiver and linebacker after Hollenbach came to the school as a sophomore. “We were definitely confident in Preston because he had been a quarterback growing up. He went out and showed he was more than capable of leading the offense when he was called on,” Roth said. In five games as the starter, Zachman was just as efficient as Hollenbach. Hollenbach earned the edge is passing yards per game, but Zachman’s had a slightly better completion percentage as well as touchdown-interception ratio. Hollenbach threw for 1,767 yards and 28 touchdowns. Zachman had 597 yards and eight touchdowns. They combined to throw just five interceptions.
Thunder and Lightning:
As the band Imagine Dragons says in one of their top-selling songs, “Thunder, feel the thunder. Lightning and the thunder.” If there was ever a better time to display that on the football field, the Garcia Brothers displayed that on the state’s highest stage. Gaige “Thunder” Garcia made sure that Wilmington felt his rumble early and often in the state championship game. “Football is a team game and we are in it together, but it is cool knowing that the two of us scored all the touchdowns in the game,” said Gaige. “I did most of my work against them in the first half and third quarter. Gavin kind of put an exclamation point on it.” The junior scored five touchdowns including the two first half touchdowns that the Tigers scored. After Gaige continued to bulldoze his way through Greyhound defenders in the third, it was time for the Tigers to show off another part of their arsenal.
In his first state final appearance Gavin “Lightning” Garcia showed off his quickness by cutting around Wilmington defenders and scoring the other two SCA touchdowns in the game. On the season, the duo became the first set of brothers to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and they accomplished it the same year. “The fact that they are brothers, and both competing at such a high level, is really amazing. They bring the best out in each other because they are so competitive and want to be the best that they can be,” Roth said. Gaige went over 6,000 yards rushing thanks to another year of topping 2,000. Gavin topped 1,000 yards in the state quarterfinals. Gaige finished with 2,042 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns and Gavin followed with 1,179 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground. They combined to catch 19 passes, 10 of which went for touchdowns. The most impressive stat is what they average per carry. Gaige averaged more than first down per attempt, and Gavin led SoCo at 11.7 yards per carry.
Julian Fleming is rated as the best junior wide receiver in the country. Another junior, Preston Zachman, just may have been the second-best receiver in the whole conference. “Having Preston on the other side definitely has to make it hard to prepare for. There are times when they have an extra defender or two on my side, and he can do damage,” Fleming said. Zachman’s receiving stats may not look all that impressive because of the limited opportunities that he had due to the five-star recruit on the opposite side of him and the fact he was playing quarterback for a stretch. “It makes it nice because if Julian is out there on the same pass play as me, the defense focuses the attention towards him. When my number is called, I just try to make a play,” said Zachman. When given the chance, Zachman’s numbers showed that he could produce. He caught 19 passes for 372 yards and four scores with a lot of his bigger plays coming during the playoff run. Fleming will enter his senior season next year making a serious push to finish in the top ten in some national records for a career. As a junior, he reset program bests by finishing with 78 receptions for 1,524 yards and 22 touchdowns bringing him closer to shattering the Pennsylvania records.
Southern Columbia had part of their offensive line broken when graduation struck in June. The Tigers had three returning starters in Troy Donlan, Oak Six, and John Stabinski to take care of the center and right-side of the line, but the left-side was a question mark. “We knew coming in to the season that two guys would have to step up to fill the void on the left side of the line. It ended up being kind of a group approach for the most part. Different players rotated and as the season moved forward we got better as a unit each week,” Six said. Two juniors, Jacob Herr and Lear Quinton, and two seniors, Seth Pletcher and Ross Wertman, were looking to patch up the left-side. “We had some difficulty at the beginning of the year trying to fit guys in where they were comfortable. We knew (Troy) Donlan, (John) Stabinski, and (Oak) Six would be solid,” said offensive line coach Mike Johnston. “Strength and explosive quickness are two very important areas for a lineman. We’re lucky to have kids who work as hard as they do.” It was a work in progress all season, but by the end the big guys up front, including newcomer tight ends Cam Haladay and Wade Kerstetter, were able to repair the void. The Tigers finished with 7,386 yards of offense and only scored less than 40 points once all season.
First Line of Defense:
Lear Quinton was the only returning starter on the defensive line from last year. In 2017, the Tigers established a new school record for rushing yards allowed per game. In 2018, Quinton was the leader on the defensive front by finishing with 68 tackles, five sacks, and a team-high 14 hurries. Fellow junior, Cole Schankweiler, saw some action as both a freshman and sophomore. He had 52 tackles and three sacks this season. The other two guys were seniors, Robert Williams and Payton Pursel, and they were finally getting their chance to make an impact on the varsity team. “You put in the work to hopefully one day get the chance to start at the varsity level. When you are a backup it makes you that much hungrier to go out and contribute when it is your chance. I think our defensive line worked really hard and did a good job,” said Pursel. Very rarely did this front get pushed around. Most of the gaps closed quickly allowing the athletic linebackers to come in and make the play. “We thought that if the d-line matured quickly we would be pretty strong there. One strength we thought we had was another good run defense,” said Andy Mills. “They understood what their jobs were and didn’t try to do too much.”
If you look at the four Southern Columbia junior linebackers walking down the hall, the eye test may not wow you. If you look at the group in action on a football field, your perception will certainly change. The two leaders were the inside tandem of Cal Haladay and Max Tillett. Haladay’s 131 tackles and Tillett’s 124 were both good enough to be top ten in the program’s single-season history. The duo also combined for 12 sacks. “The main thing is being physical. You have to want to go out and hit people. If you don’t like lots of contact then football probably isn’t the sport for you. We want to go out and smash people,” Haladay said. Haladay is already the school’s record-holder for career tackles, and Tillett should finish second by the end of next season. On the outside, the speed of Preston Zachman and Nate Crowl add to the headache for the opposing quarterback. Wade Kerstetter filled in during Zachman’s stint at quarterback, as well as in other scenarios, and the sophomore finished the season third on the team in tackles with 74. “You have to go out with the mindset to make plays however you can. As a linebacker, you need to fly around and get to the ball. It’s not a position where you can relax, but I know we have a lot of fun doing it,” Tillett said. “We mesh together well and know our roles. You have to react when the ball is snapped and not allow a lineman to get a good block on you.”
Passing the Test:
If you were the guy playing cornerback on the opposite side of Julian Fleming, you knew that you were going to be tested. Early on, senior Shane Miller and sophomore Jake Davis had to prove themselves by sharing the other corner spot. They got to learn the varsity game rather quickly as each of them made some mistakes, but they stayed confident. As the season progressed, they both made an impact in coverage by intercepting and breaking up passes in helping the defense limit big plays. Miller tied for the team-lead with four interceptions including the two he had in the state final. Davis led the team with 13 pass-breakups and had three interceptions. The safety who oversaw things from the secondary was junior Cade Linn. Linn, who rotated in last season at times, finished fourth on the team in tackles by stepping up and making a big impact on stuffing the run. “Guys just step up and do what they are supposed to do. It’s really that simple. You go out and try to do your best. Play with confidence in yourself and trust your teammates,” said Linn who had 71 tackles on the season as well as a pair of interceptions.
Special Kind of Effort:
With most of the media’s attention focusing on the offense and defense, sometimes the third phase of a team gets overlooked. Not that the Tigers needed to win the field position battle to win games, but by controlling all three phases of the game made this version of the Tigers just that much better. A perfect example of one of those staples on special teams’ coverage was starting fullback Ty Roadarmel. The junior rushed for 601 yards and eight touchdowns and added 23 tackles. “I love being able to run down and hit someone on kickoffs. I think the coaches have decided it doesn’t matter if you start on offense or defense, but more of who is willing to sacrifice their bodies to make a tackle and earn a spot on special teams,” Roadarmel said. The most impressive part of the SCA special teams unit was their return game. Julian Fleming and Gaige Garcia, just by their visual presence, forced teams to kick away from them given the fact that they could take it the distance at any moment that they touched the pigskin.
When most championship teams say they won as a family, it usually comes across as cliché. In Southern’s case, there is truth to it. This year’s Tiger team consisted of four sets of brothers. Gaige and Gavin Garcia shared the backfield. Cal Haladay has been a staple at linebacker while his brother Cam started at tight end. Payton Pursel played on the defensive line while his brother Owyne was used at times as a second safety in passing downs. Ross Wertman rotated as a starter on the offensive line, and his brother Derek was a backup lineman. “Having so many brothers on one team really made this team special. At times it also made it more interesting,” said Ross Wertman. Lear Quinton and Ty Roadarmel are first cousins as are Nate and Kurt Crowl.
Injury Bug Swatted:
SCA trainer Tim Jurnak didn’t have to deal with as many injuries as the Tigers may have had in some of their previous deep runs. Sure, there were bumps and bruises along the way, but except for three incidences the injury bug was squashed. The most severe injury was Hollenbach’s five-week absence with a broken bone on his non-throwing hand. Gavin Garcia missed all but one play of the Eastern Final with a migraine. Nate Crowl, who was originally thought he fractured his ankle, missed the better part of three games with a sprain. “When you don’t know exactly what the diagnosis is, your mind thinks the worst. There’s not really a better feeling than finding out that it’s not as bad as your originally think,” said Crowl. Given how violent of a game football is, I’m sure the Southern coaching staff would be pleased in any season to have their starters combine to miss less than ten games throughout the course of a long season.
Half of a Season:
As if the stats aren’t impressive enough, the Tigers starters very rarely saw action in the second half at all. In fact, in over half of the games that Southern played in this season, they put the game in to the Mercy Rule before halftime. “Our mentality was to go out and take care of business from the opening kickoff. We didn’t want any letups or to give any team a chance to think that they could win. You have to take that same approach no matter who you play,” said John Stabinski. Just think of some of the numbers that the offensive players could have put up if they played a full game. The Garcia’s and Fleming alone could have piled up well over a mile’s worth of yardage.
The Tigers defense gave up an average of just a little more than four points per game in the first half this season. In 12 of those games, they held their opposition to under 100 yards of offense through the first two quarters. “Our goal was to keep the other team out of the end zone each week. We wanted to go out and force a three and out to get the ball back in the hands of our offense. We were hungry and wanted to get to the ball however we could,” Lear Quinton said. The defense forced eight first half shutouts and only gave up double-digits twice all season including the state championship.
Awards All Around:
To list all the awards that Julian Fleming and some of the other players received this season would simply take too long to put in to words. Southern Columbia dominated their conference, PHAC Division III, all-star team. Fleming was a first team selection at both wide receiver and defensive back. Gaige Garcia was named a first team running back. Stone Hollenbach claimed the quarterback spot with linemen Oak Six and Troy Donlan also being selected on the first team. Preston Zachman was named the first team athlete. Defensively, both inside linebackers, Cal Haladay and Max Tillett, were picked to lead the first team. Cade Linn and Cole Schankweiler were chosen at defensive back and defensive tackle on the first team respectively. “It shows how we had guys step up from every position. We had other great players as well, but the main thing we cared about was winning that ninth state championship,” Troy Donlan said. “In the end that is all that matters. Awards don’t mean much if you don’t finish your ultimate goal on a good note.”
The trio of Fleming, Garcia, and Haladay became part of a rare group of being named three-time all-state selections. In 2019, the juniors could become the first Tigers to ever be selected all four of their years. “The grind never stops. We want to cap off our careers next season on the best note possible. Getting to the state final for a fourth straight year and trying to win a third consecutive championship is the priority,” Haladay said. Hollenbach capped off his career with a second consecutive all-state nod. Donlan, Six, and Tillett were each chosen for the first time giving the Tigers seven selections in total on the PA Sportswriters 2A All-State Team. This tied the highest number of players that SCA has ever had in a season. “I have been blessed to play with some incredible players. They made my job so much easier. Whether it is Julian burning through a coverage or Gaige plowing over guys on a run, we just had a lot of weapons that made it really hard for a defense to stop,” said Hollenbach. “On the other side of things, our defense was really impressive all year. Nobody could move the ball consistently against them.”
Top 5 Plays of the Year:
–Gaige Garcia (Week 1)
In the first game of the season, Garcia caught a pass against Bloomsburg that appeared at first to be an interception in the end zone. Somehow, the junior running back was able to steal it from the defensive back leaving the Panthers sidelines in shock as the ref signaled a touchdown. On Stone Hollenbach’s fade pass, the defender initially had it, but as they were falling to the ground Garcia pulled it over the defender’s arms and secured possession as they landed for a touchdown.
–Gavin Garcia (Week 3)
The Selinsgrove Seals were the victims of Gavin Garcia’s emergence as a legitimate threat in the backfield. The freshman scored all three times he touched the ball, but the one that stood out the most came in the second quarter. “I got that third carry of the game and my confidence was huge after scoring the first two times,” said Gavin Garcia. “I just kind of bounced around spinning off of kids then found daylight after making guys miss.” The younger Garcia appeared to be stopped by four players before he eluded them by ducking and dodging and cut back to the other side of the field and found the end zone on a long run.
–Cal Haladay (Week 6)
When SoCo traveled to South Williamsport, the Tigers wanted to redeem themselves after playing Central to a first half tie the week prior. On a fourth down before halftime, the Mounties punter bobbled a snap and took off to try for a first down. Haladay read it perfectly, charging full-speed, and delivered a crushing blow to make the stop. A hit that was perfectly legal, ended up being a scary scene as the recipient of the hit had to be taken by ambulance for precautionary measures. Thankfully, the player suffered just a concussion after what appeared to be worse.
–Julian Fleming (Week 15)
With all the highlight reel plays that Fleming has made over the course of his first three seasons, it’s hard to say one stands out. However, his head coach made a pretty bold statement after the Tigers won another Eastern Final over West Catholic. “Julian has made some tremendous plays in his career, but that two-point conversion catch may have been his best. He just stuck out his arm and made the play,” Roth said. Against the Burrs, Fleming ran a quick out pattern, after the Tigers scored, and stuck out one arm and pulled in Hollenbach’s pass for two points. Fleming made it look as effortless as a mechanical machine.
–Gaige Garcia (Week 16)
Take your pick when it came to plays that Garcia made in Hershey. The most impactful one was certainly his touchdown catch just before the half to tie things up, but his most impressive one may not have resulted in points. “He just played like a beast all game. He was turning plays that looked like they were going to be negative into positive ones. What he did most players just can’t do,” Fleming said. Garcia turned what appeared to be a nine-yard loss in to a seven-yard game by literally throwing players off his back. In total, he broke six tackles and it was the defining image of what the junior did throughout the state championship victory.
Records Set in ‘18:
–Ethan Dunkelberger: The senior broke not just the school record, but the state record for extra points just a year after former Tiger Elijah Hoffman did so in 2017. Dunkelberger’s 105 PAT’s edged out Hoffman’s 102. “It was a pretty surreal season. To come out and break a state record in my first season on the field, it’s not an opportunity that most guys get. I’m just thankful for everything this season,” said Dunkelberger who was also the soccer team’s starting goalie.
–Julian Fleming: When Number 4 walked off the field after his first game as a freshman, any spectator could see that he was going to be something special. He has been more than just something special. Before his junior season ended, Fleming broke all of District IV’s receiving records for a career. After three seasons, and missing a few games as a sophomore, the Under Armour All-American nominee has totaled 183 receptions for 3,942 yards and 55 touchdowns and has received Division 1 offers from practically every powerhouse in the country.
–Gaige Garcia: The workhorse had been injury-plagued during his junior high years at Southern Columbia, so his high school career was in a bit of doubt as to if he would be able to stay healthy. Knock on wood. Other than missing the state final as a freshman with a broken ankle, the junior has started in all 47 games that he has played in and the Tigers haven’t lost in any of them. During the Tigers most recent state championship victory over Wilmington, Garcia broke the school record for the most total touchdowns in a career. “There isn’t a high school in Pennsylvania that has been more successful than Southern so it is a great honor knowing who has come before me,” Garcia said. His now 124 touchdowns broke Henry Hynoski’s record that was set during the 2006 season.
–Cal Haladay: With all the players graduated after the Tigers 2015 State Championship, the Tigers coaching staff was counting on some freshmen to step up in big ways. Haladay was the most impressive on the defense as the newcomer set a school record for tackles in a season during his rookie season. Towards the end of the regular season this year, Haladay broke the school’s all-time record for tackles that had stood for 25 years. “It is a lot of fun playing next to Cal. I think we work really well together and make it hard for the offense to stop us both,” said Max Tillett who should finish second all-time in tackling at SCA. Haladay will enter his final year with 391 career tackles.
–Stone Hollenbach: As a three-year starter, Hollenbach broke almost all of the school’s passing records. In 2015, Nick Becker set a new standard at the top of the record books, but it was short-lived. Hollenbach, who will be a preferred walk-on at Alabama next fall, broke the record for career and season passing yards, completions, and touchdowns. Unofficial until after the season concluded, the senior has now broken Brad Fegley’s record for career completion percentage. The only record that Hollenbach doesn’t now own at Southern is touchdown to interception ratio which is held by Fegley at 14-0.
Crunching the Numbers:
2,859 – The number of days that separate Southern Columbia’s last regular season loss and the next potential date that they could lose. On 10/28/2011 the Tigers lost a heartbreaker by a single point at The Silver Bowl. The Tigers, who made it to the state final in 2011, held a two-touchdown lead entering the fourth quarter, but Mount Carmel Area scored twice and added a two-point conversion late. The Tigers season kicks off next year on 8/25/2019 against Hammond (South Carolina) on ESPN 2.
894 – The rushing record book is stronger at Southern Columbia than anywhere else in the state. The Tiger program is the only one in the state’s history to have four different players with over 6,000 yards in a career. Gaige Garcia (6,272) has already done that as a junior, so in his final season next year he will need 894 rushing yards to break the school record.
860 – The Tigers tied the Jeanette Jayhawks state record for the most points ever scored in a season by a state championship winning team. “We had guys step up and execute all season. It wasn’t always the same guy so the credit goes to everyone,” lineman John Stabinski said. It is the second most overall trailing just Clairton who in 2014 scored over 900 points, but the Bears lost in the state final.
500 – The number of receiving yards Julian Fleming needs next season to set the new state standard. “I am not worried about that. I will let it play out on its own. All I am worried about is winning games. I want to leave the school as a three-time state champion,” said Fleming who has 3,942 yards. The current record holder in PA is Kevin Guylas with 4,441 yards.
428 – The number of coaching victories Jim Roth has since taking over the Tiger program in 1984. He trails just Jack Henzes of Dunmore (435 wins) and George Curry (455 wins) for the most in Pennsylvania history.
144 – The number of games that three of the Tigers senior offensive lineman have combined to start. Oak Six (right tackle), John Stabinski (right guard), and Troy Donlan (center) have started every game together since their sophomore season began. “It was a great experience. We have a lot of memories to definitely take with us through our lives. Mostly all good ones,” Six said.
109 – Cal Haladay is already the school’s all-time leader in tackles, but needs 109 next year for another milestone. Next season he will try to become what is believed to be one of the only players in state history to finish with over 500 tackles in a career (NFHS doesn’t keep tackle records available for view).
97 – The number of points that the Tigers have scored in the past two state championship wins over Wilmington. “Our defense played great in both games. The offense was able to carry momentum from them to put up points. It was very satisfying,” Hollenbach said. Last year, SCA blanked the Greyhounds by winning 48-0.
87 – Julian Fleming (183) needs 87 receptions to break the Keystone State record in that category. This one will most likely be the toughest given how quickly the Tigers score on seemingly every drive. Not too shabby for someone that plays in a Wing-T rushing offense.
71 – Southern Columbia’s current regular season winning streak. The Tigers currently hold the second longest streak in state history. Ironically, if they were to break Strath Haven’s record of 74, it would come at Shamokin Area. “As seniors, we aren’t going to want to be the class to end the streak. We will work hard and be motivated to break the record,” said junior Jacob Herr. The Indians are coached by former Southern Columbia star and all-time leading rusher Henry Hynoski.
63 – The number of victories that seniors Troy Donlan and Oak Six will end their careers with. Other than a loss to Steel Valley in the 2016 PIAA State Championship, these two linemen weren’t part of any other losses. Their 98.4% winning percentage is the best all-time at SCA as they rotated in as freshmen when the team beat Aliquippa for the state title.
61 – How many rushing touchdowns the Garcia Brother combined for this season. Gaige finished with 38 and Gavin, as a freshman, added 23. This is the most ever by an SCA duo during one season.
33 – The number of touchdown passes that Stone Hollenbach and Preston Zachman combined to throw for this season. It is the most combined ever in a season for the Tigers. In 11 starts, Hollenbach threw 25 touchdowns. In the five games that Zachman started, he was able to add eight to the total.
32 – Tied for the longest winning streak in school history, the Tigers could set a new standard next season in their opener for consecutive wins. “We go out and take each game one game at a time. You can’t overlook any team that you play or else you can be upset. Staying focused is what our coaches make sure that we do no matter who we play,” said cornerback Jake Davis.
26 – How many District IV Championships that the Tigers have won since 1994. The only years in that span SCA didn’t claim the title were in 2007 when they finished 9-2 and in 2014 when they went 11-1. Not too bad of records for what by Southern’s standard is a “down year”.
17 – Jim Roth’s Tiger teams have made it to a state record of 17 PIAA State Championship games. No other team in the history of PA has made it to more than 10. “Our coaching staff has so much experience and they have been successful for many years.” said Lear Quinton. “They know what it takes to get the players playing at the highest level when the playoffs start.”
15 – How many rushing touchdowns Gaige Garcia (106) needs to break Lamont Wade’s state record. Garcia has had more than 15 in each regular season that he has played in, so it should be a safe bet.
13 – If not for the Tigers coaching staff of showing good sportsmanship in each game, the Tigers could have literally scored over 100 points in nearly all of them. They were however able to win 13 of their 16 games via the Mercy Rule.
9 – The number of state championships that the Tigers have won on the gridiron. Their first in 1994 came at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona. The last eight have been conquered at what is known as “The Sweetest Place on Earth.”
8 – In half of the Tigers games this season, the Tigers defense posted first half shutouts. In 64 quarters total on the year, SCA only gave up points in 19 of them with most being at times when the Tigers’ reserves were facing off with the opposition’s starters in the second half.
7 – The number of receiving touchdowns that Julian Fleming needs next season to break the state record for a career. Earlier this year, Aaron Tutino reset the record by finishing with 61. Considering Fleming has averaged over 18 touchdown catches per season, this record could belong to him rather quickly in 2019.
6 – How many total touchdowns Gaige Garcia (124) needs to become Pennsylvania’s all-time leader for career touchdowns. Whether it be rushing, receiving, or returning, Garcia has been able to find ways to reach the end zone throughout his entire career.
5 – The number of different ways Preston Zachman scored touchdowns this season. The junior threw for eight, caught four, rushed for one, and had an interception and fumble recovery returned for scores. “I just want to do my job. It was in different roles this year, but I’m just glad to have the chance to help in whatever way that I can,” said the junior.
3 – The Tigers football program is the only one in PIAA history to win at least three state championships in two different classifications. Jim Roth’s teams have won six Class 1A titles and now have added three Class 2A titles in the past four seasons.
3 – In three games this season, the Tigers scored more than 50 points in the first half. “Our team can put points up quickly. A lot of guys can break off huge plays and score from anywhere on the field,” said tight end Cam Haladay. All of these outbursts came over a four-week span. Eight times Southern scored at least 40 points in the opening half of games.
1 – Southern Columbia is the only public school in PIAA history to have won consecutive state championships in two different spans. From 2002-2006, the Tigers rolled off five in a row. Now, in 2017 and 2018 they’ve gone back-to-back.
1 – Out of the six classifications in the PIAA football system, Southern Columbia was the only team that won the state title out of the East in 2018. The other five champs represented the West although geographically teams like St. Joe’s Prep are more on the right side of the state.
0 – The number of seconds that SCA trailed in the second half of games this season. Most of which their starters watched from the sidelines cheering on the reserves. “As a competitor you want to be out there at all times. If you have to be on the sidelines, the only time you like that is when you have a big lead and can be relaxed,” said Gaige Garcia.
0 – The Tigers had to kick as many field goals this season as the person reading this article. Not that they didn’t have someone capable of doing so, but the offense was just that dominant that the only kicking, which was frequent, came on extra points and kickoffs.
One for the (Second) Thumb:
With how strong Southern Columbia’s junior class is, one would be dumb to not pick the Tigers as the odds-on favorites to go for the three-peat. “I know that is what the senior class will be prepared for. They want to be able to finish all four of their seasons in the state final and will be determined to hopefully try for a third title in a row,” said Roth. With all the returning starters from the offensive skill positions, including a quarterback who started five games, this will unquestionably be the most dangerous group to ever suit up for the team barring any major injuries. The focus will be rebuilding virtually the entire offensive line.
The defense will once again be led by their linebacking corps as no senior was in the mix. With a veteran secondary, and two returning starters on the defensive line, the defense should be just as strong. The biggest decision will be if Zachman, who is slated to be the quarterback, will return on defense. “There’s a lot of time before next season starts. Players can step up and win positions and unfortunately injuries can play a factor. We will make that decision when the time comes,” said Roth. In close to four decades of coaching, Jon Fetterman (1993) and Brad Fegley (2011) were the only two quarterbacks that Roth played both ways. Like Zachman, they were both linebackers. “I guess we will just have to wait and see. That would be cool since it is rare at Southern. As a competitor, you want to be out there as much as you can,” Zachman said.
With plenty of time until the decisions need to be made in August, sit back and appreciate what the Southern Columbia football program has once again brought to the surrounding community. “It was a fun ride. We went out and got our ultimate goal. Winning a tenth one next season would be incredible. Not many players get the chance to ever play in one yet alone to win three time,” Tillett said. Then, as next fall rolls in, it will be time to watch the Tigers journey toward a record tenth title, which would add a ring to some of the veteran coaches’ other thumb.
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