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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, September 14th, 2019
When Southern Columbia arrived at Kemp Memorial Stadium on Friday night to take on Shamokin Area, their mindset was the same as it has been for a long, long time. Go out, dominate, and leave the field with a win and no doubt. The Tigers did just that as they won their 75th consecutive regular season game which broke a state record that was formerly held by Strath Haven since 2004. “It’s great to get that record for the program. Obviously it took a lot of hard work from the players over the past eight years to make this happen. I’m happy the group that officially broke the record though was this senior class because you can’t say enough about this class,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. “As I have said numerous times before, this senior class is a once in a career type of class so it is fitting for them to be the leaders to break the record.” Since a win in week ten of the 2011 season, the Tigers have not lost a regular season game.
In addition to the win streak, another record was broken during the Tigers 62-0 victory against the Indians. A week after Gaige Garcia broke the state record for career total touchdowns, the senior running back broke the Southern school record for career rushing touchdowns. Ironically enough, the previous record holder was Henry Hynoski who happened to be the opposing coach against the Tigers on Friday night. On Garcia’s first carry of the game, he took a hand-off 52 yards for a touchdown giving him 113 rushing scores for his career. “I mean that’s pretty neat for him to get my school record in a game that I am coaching against him,” said Shamokin coach Henry Hynoski who graduated from SCA in 2007. “He’s a phenomenal player and a true gentleman. I just hope he continues to stay healthy for the rest of his football career and if he can he will go places.”
During the 2,877-day span since the last regular season loss for the nine-time state champs, it would be hard to find a stretch where the Tigers have looked as dominant as they do now. On Friday the 13th, the Indians realized first-hand just how scary the Tigers are. “I just have tremendous respect for the Southern program. Obviously I lived it as a player there, but now to see it as an opposing coach it really is amazing. They have a phenomenal coaching staff and the program is unrivaled across the state and really across the country for that matter,” Hynoski said about his alma-mater. “My heart is still always with Southern. I hope they go 15-1 each year and win a state title. I’m always rooting for them in every other game they are in.”
With the shutout victory, the 2019 version of the Tigers became the first team in the school’s history to shutout their first four opponents. “I mean you can’t say enough good things about the way our defense has looked. In all three phases of our defense it’s hard to pick out really any area that we can improve right now,” said Roth. In total, the two-time defending state champions have outscored their opponents by a staggering margin of 222-0. “We are just trying to build more and more each week. The defense has been clicking since the beginning. Our offense continues to grow with the new guys getting more comfortable playing with each other,” said senior Julian Fleming who became the first player in District IV history to record 200 career receptions during his team’s Mercy Rule victory.
The Tigers haven’t had to incorporate much of a passing game into their offense due to getting off to quick starts via the run, but the connection of senior quarterback Preston Zachman to Fleming was in full effect at Shamokin early on. “The first couple of games I felt like I had to get the rust off and now I’m feeling more comfortable. We have basically a new line this year and they are starting to pick it up more too, so things are definitely coming together,” said Zachman who threw a total of just four passes in the contest, but three of them were touchdown passes to Fleming.
After Garcia’s school record breaking touchdown run, and the defense forcing a three and out, Zachman found Fleming behind the secondary on the first play of the drive to put Southern in front 14-0 with 9:39 left in the opening quarter. The Tigers defense, thanks to two sacks by Ian Huntington, forced another punt and Fleming caught a nine-yard touchdown pass in which he hurdled over a tackle attempt as he landed in the end zone. The Tigers would extend their lead to 28-0 on the next drive when Fleming completed his hat trick with a 46-yard grab that he took to pay dirt.
That final touchdown reception was the 59th of the Ohio State-bound wide receiver’s career which moves him to within three of the state record for career receiving touchdowns. “People have been chirping in my ear asking me how many more I need for the record. Honestly though for as competitive as I am, I don’t like to keep track of things like that. I know that if we keep having success it will come. I’m not worried about reaching it at any point. All I am worried about is continuing to win football games and then things go the way you want them to. Our eyes are focused on getting that gold at the end of the year,” Fleming said.
Gaige Garcia scored the Tigers fifth touchdown of the first quarter on a 20-yard run. “The goal is to come out and set the tone early. We want to try and be as close to perfect as we can be. From the line’s blocking, to the skill players making plays, we want to execute to the best of our abilities,” said Garcia. His brother Gavin started off the second quarter with a 23-yard touchdown run after Jake Davis recorded his team-leading fifth interception on the year. “Jake has really elevated his game this season and he definitely seems more confident in his ability to cover and make plays,” said Roth. Each Garcia would add another second quarter touchdown on a 38-yard run from Gaige and a 54-yard scamper from Gavin to give the Tigers a remarkable 55-0 halftime lead. The only touchdown in the second half came early in the fourth quarter when sophomore running back Trevor Yorks scored his first career touchdown on a 19-yard plunge making the route a final of 62-0.
After the game Gaige Garcia reflected on the newest feat that he was able to accomplish. “Henry (Hynoski) had a great career as a Tiger, so to be able to break his school record with him coaching on the other sideline is a really cool feeling. I know all about what he accomplished in his career here at Southern and I am honored to be in the same conversation as him,” said the Michigan recruit. “To be able to do this in a game where we set a state record for consecutive wins is really a testament to the program. Hopefully we can keep this going for a long time and the underclassmen keep it alive for many more years. We aren’t rebuilding each year, but rather we look at it as reloading.”
In addition to being pleased with his best passing game of the season thus far, Zachman was still beaming with joy after receiving a scholarship offer from Wisconsin the day prior. He also realizes that some of his close friends could potentially be his rivals down the road. “We will see how things pan out, but if I do eventually decide to go there it would be cool to have four different guys go to Big 10 schools and to play against each other in the future,” said Zachman. The 6-2, 210-pound product is being recruited as a defensive prospect at the next level. The other Big 10 commit is Southern’s all-time tackling leader Cal Haladay who is set to attend Michigan State as a linebacker. A fifth Tiger, Max Tillett, has also been on the radar of Big 10 schools.
Shamokin will travel to Lewisburg next Friday to try and get back into the win column. Southern will head home to Tiger Stadium for Homecoming. “The only negative so far, and it’s definitely a good problem to have, is our starters are getting frusturated that they can’t play more. In reality though they have built such big leads by halftime of each game and it wouldn’t look good to keep them in there,” said Roth. “With other guys working all week in practice, and earning playing time, we have no reason to put the starters back in. Plus some of our subs are good enough to start most places.” If the biggest problem the Tiger coaching staff has is trying to cope with their starters getting mad that they get pulled too early after dominating, then not too many other programs are going to come to their defense as a form of pity.
Next week the Tigers will host the Blue Jays of Central Columbia on Jim Roth Field. Although it won’t be on a Friday the 13th, Southern’s defensive goal will be to continue to spread fear into the eye’s of the opposition while trying to post another shutout. “We want to be the team that sets all kinds of records. Our goal is to keep the winning streak going, but to do it without giving up any points,” said defensive tackle Cole Schankweiler. “We are being told by a lot of people that we could be one of the best. Our goal though is to be better than the best. We want to be in our own tier at the top,” the defensive tackle said.
Cass Township back in 1959 set the state record with 15-consecutive shutouts. The way the Tigers defense has looked, that absurd number might also be in jeopardy. “We just need to take things one game at a time. I don’t want the players looking ahead. They can shoot for the shutouts each week because that is motivation, but just one game at a time,” Roth said. If the Tigers were to eventually break that mark, they would do it down in Hershey while going for state title number ten. What a storybook ending to this group of senior’s career that could be.
SCA: 35-20-0-7 = 62
SHA: 0-0-0-0 = 0
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (4-0)
Gaige Garcia 5-134, 3 TD’s; Gavin Garcia 7-137, 2 TD’s; Ty Roadarmel 4-50; Braden Heim 4-38; Trevor Yorks 1-19, TD; Matt Masala 1-11; Wes Barnes 2-12; Brandon Gedman 1-(-2)
Preston Zachman 3-4-0, 105 yds, 3 TD’s
Julian Fleming 3-105, 3 TD’s
First Downs: 20
Max Madden 6-16; Corey Adams 5-16; Bryson James 5-15; Aaron Frasch 3-10; Matt Scicchitano 1-5; Nate Grimes 9-(-16); Brett Nye 9-(-18)
Brett Nye 6-14-1, 65 yds.; Nate Grimes 2-8-0, 26 yds
Ryder Zulkowski 4-38; Joe Masser 1-31; Mitchell Knowles 1-20; Matt Scicchitano 2-2
First Downs: 9
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