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Written by: Dave Fegley on Sunday, November 14th, 2021
High school football games are played in 12-minute quarters. In a District 4 Class 2A semifinal meeting between No. 1 Southern Columbia and No. 4 South Williamsport, the Tigers were on offense for just 2 minutes and 26 seconds in the opening half.
The four-time defending PIAA champions didn’t need any additional time to take a 35-0 lead into the half as they went on to beat the Mounties 41-7. In total, the Tigers ran just 17 offensive plays for the game in their Mercy Rule win that sets up a district final meeting against rival Mount Carmel Area next week.
“Well, that was a weird one. They did a good job of controlling the clock with their running game, but our offense was able to score quickly when we got the ball,” said Southern head coach Jim Roth after the Tigers picked up the 550th win in program history. “We have never had fewer offensive plays in a game . I know the guys can get frustrated when they don’t get as many opportunities as they would like, but that is a good problem to have.”
South Williamsport ate up over seven minutes of clock after receiving the opening kickoff, but Landon Lorson was picked off by Jake Rose on the 12th play of the drive. The Southern senior returned it 81 yards for the game’s opening touchdown.
“Our guys played hard. I am proud of the effort that they gave. There wasn’t any lack of energy on the field. We moved the ball early on but couldn’t convert and they have a great team again,” South Williamsport head coach Chris Eiswerth said.
Once Southern’s offense finally got on the field, they ran just eight plays in the first two quarters and scored touchdowns on four of them.
Gavin Garcia was motivated with his future running backs coach in attendance. The Kent State recruit had Matt Johnson in Tiger Territory with the Golden Flashes playing in the MAC-tion schedule where the conference often plays on weekdays.
Showing the mentality of why Southern Columbia has won more state titles than any other across the commonwealth, the reigning Pennsylvania 2A Player of the Year wasn’t satisfied after the win. The 11-time PIAA champions need to clean things up on the defensive side of the ball according to Garcia.
“Our offense has continued to play well now that we have most of our guys back from injury. We have guys that can score from anywhere on offense, but we need to pick it up on defense. If we don’t play more physical, Mount Carmel will have a lot of success against us next week. It is time to buckle down and take things more seriously in practice. We haven’t been as focused as we need to be, but that has to change if we want to win another title,” said Garcia.
Garcia scored touchdowns on three of his four carries of the night. After his first carry, 42 yards, put the Tigers in front 14-0 after the first quarter, the senior pulled out his Barry Sanders moves on a 22-yard scamper in the second. After reigning 100-meter dash state gold medalist Braeden Wisloski outran the Mounties into the end zone to extend the lead, Garcia played the part of Harry Houdini by escaping a pile to move the lead to 28-0.
With 41 seconds left in the half, Rose got wide open off a play action pass and sophomore Blake Wise hit him in stride for a 55-yard connection.
“As a lineman, it is awesome to be a part of our offense. You go out and hit somebody each play, and then when you look up we are scoring,” said senior offensive guard Joe Quinton. “Last year we were all new starters on the line, but this year we have four guys back so we need to continue to execute and do our jobs.”
Prior to kickoff, South Williamsport ran through a banner that said “HEY TIGERS! TELL YOUR GIRLFRIENDS YOU’LL BE FREE NEXT FRIDAY!”
Instead, the SCA girlfriends will be in attendance at Tiger Stadium as Southern looks to win a remarkable 29th district crown in the past 31 years. It will be another clash with the Red Tornadoes that will be filled with hype due to the proximity of the historic programs.
In the case of Wise, and others, it is a game where family roots are located in both towns.
“I have family in Mount Carmel, so we have to go out there and take it to them. There’s definitely a rivalry in play, so we want to win for sure. It is always a big game filled with hype,” said Wise who took over as the starting quarterback when senior Liam Klebon suffered a season-ending neck injury just before halftime in the regular season meeting that the Tigers won 40-14 against the Tornadoes.
Mount Carmel will enter riding a seven-game winning streak. Southern has won six straight after losing for the first time in a decade earlier this season in the regular season.
The Tigers have owned their rivalry against the Tornadoes as of late, winning each matchup since 2011.
Southern Columbia 41, South Williamsport 7
South Williamsport (7-4): 0-0-0-7 — 7
Southern Columbia (11-1): 14-21-6-0 — 41
SC — Jake Rose 81 interception return (Isaac Carter kick) – 4:46
SC — Gavin Garcia 42 run (Carter kick) – 0:44
SC — Garcia 22 run (Carter kick) – 6:42
SC — Braeden Wisloski 38 run (Carter kick) – 2:38
SC — Rose 55 pass from Blake Wise (Carter kick) – 0:41
SC — Garcia 16 run (kick blocked) – 8:56
SW — Landon Lorson 9 run (Lorson kick) – 7:39
SW – SC
First downs: 14 – 9
Rushing-yds: 49-143 – 15-191
Passing: 5-14-2 – 1-2-0
Passing yds: 43 – 55
Total yds: 186 – 246
Fumbles-lost: 3-0 – 2-2
Penalties: 3-25 – 2-20
RUSHING — Southern Columbia: Gavin Garcia 4-113, 3 TD’s; Braeden Wisloski 4-55, TD; Wes Barnes 6-23; Team; 1-0. South Williamsport: Clayton Swarthout 18-82; Lane Lusk 18-51; Landon Lorson 9-15, TD; Jake Casella 3-7; Caden Harris 1-(-12).
PASSING — Southern Columbia: Blake Wise 1-2-0, 55 yds, TD. South Williamsport: Landon Lorson 5-14-2, 43 yds.
RECEIVING — Southern Columbia: Jake Rose 1-55, TD. South Williamsport: Caden Harris 3-20; Grant Bachman 1-15; Jake Casella 1-8.
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