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December 9-11 2021 Scoreboard
 
 

Southern State of Mind – Tigers Heading to Hershey Again

Written by: on Saturday, December 4th, 2021

 

Tigers headed to record 20th title

Northern Lehigh just finished off one of their three best seasons in the history of the Bulldog program. One win shy of making a second ever PIAA final appearance, the District 11 squad just so happened to run into the best program in Pennsylvania when it comes to championship success.

Southern Columbia out of District 4 scored early and often and will head to a seventh consecutive state final after manhandling Northern Lehigh in Lehighton by a score of 56-14.

The way the Tigers executed, they are in a ‘Southern State of Mind’ and know they are just one victory from a state-record 12th, and fifth consecutive, PIAA gold.

“These past two weeks, our guys took on two very good football teams and the final scores have indicated how well our players executed,” said Southern head coach Jim Roth after his 470th career victory. “To be able to beat Richland and now Northern Lehigh by the margins we did, as a staff, we couldn’t be happier for the players.”

Gavin Garcia returned an interception 102 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the third quarter to establish the longest play in Southern Columbia’s history, eclipsing a 100-yard pick six in a playoff game by Zeke Conrad in a 2005 playoff win over Muncy.

“Our defense had great pressure on their quarterback, I played disciplined and stayed in my zone as the ball found me,” said Garcia. “From there, it was a wall of white jerseys, and I just sprinted to the other end zone.”

At that point, the Tigers were already tasting chocolate, and were on their way to a record 20th PIAA state final appearance.

In all three phases of the game, the Tigers quieted the bark of the Bulldogs from the start. Any way you try to sum it up, Southern Columbia was better than Northern Lehigh by a larger gap than the road trip the Tigers will take in their seemingly annual trip down Interstate 81 next Friday.

In the PIAA Class 2A final, Southern will be taking on Serra Catholic, a 27-18 winner over previously unbeaten Farrell, for the first time.

“There really isn’t much to say. All over the field our guys were getting the job done. Obviously in a state semifinal you are playing against a really good football team, and to our players credit, they handled the task,” Roth said.

The Tigers wasted no time in scoring the first points of the evening. The juggernaut that is now an unbelievable 20-1 in 21 Eastern Finals needed just five plays to score the game’s opening touchdown less than two minutes in. Junior halfback Braeden Wisloski, who led the team with 131 yards, capped off the drive with a 13-yard scamper.

After forcing a three-and-out, Garcia returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back for a crackback block penalty. No harm was done as the black and gold went 73 yards on four plays, finished by a Wes Barnes seven-yard score.

Northern Lehigh cut the deficit in half at 14-7 late in the first quarter on a short Matt Frame run, but then the Tigers officially euthanized the Bulldogs by scoring 42-unanswered points.

“They have so many weapons. Between their three running backs and the way they block, they are elite offensively,” Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout said. “On defense, they are just as good. We made a few plays early, but they made it tough sledding.”

On the second play of the ensuing drive, Wisloski took a reverse 53 yards to the house. After the 100-meter dash state champion got into the opening, nobody was catching him.

“All the credit goes to my line. I have been motivated to get this opportunity after being hurt for a lot of the regular season,” Wisloski said. “We have had a bunch of injuries, but you can never underestimate the heart of a champion.”

Barnes scored from six yards out with 6:29 left in the half to make the score 28-7.

Each member of the three-headed monster backfield eclipsed the century mark in the semifinal as Barnes added 120 yards and Garcia finished with 106 yards.

With the three-touchdown lead, senior defensive end Derek Berlitz took over.

His 11th sack of the season forced a punt, but on the next play it wasn’t kicked after he blocked it to set up short field for Garcia, who became the fourth ever Tiger to reach the 7,000 rushing mark, to score on a 13-yard run.

On the final play of the half, Berlitz added a sack, the 19th of his career, to move him into fifth all-time in school history.

“A quarterback can’t expect to sit back and read the field because I’ll be coming,” said Berlitz. “Defense is a huge motivator. I love this team, and those sacks and blocked punts get the crowd going crazy.”

In between Garcia’s more than a full-length field interception return, Wisloski and Barnes each scored a third rushing touchdown to finish off the onslaught.

“Everyone on this team is only focused on winning. It doesn’t matter who is scoring because it is a team effort. When we get the ball, we try to break free, and when someone else has it, you block to try for the same result,” said Barnes.

The Tiger starting backfield of Wisloski, Barnes, and Garcia combined for 357 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on just 21 carries with the help of the unsung heroes up front.

“We ran into a beast. They proved why they are the program that they are,” Tout said. “Credit to them for the way they execute, but I don’t want it to override how proud I am of our team. It was a great season that we can look back on and I want the players to know how their work won’t be overlooked this year.”

The Bulldogs were able to pick up yards against the Tiger reserves to close out the game, and Frame scored a second time, but at that point the Southern starters were watching the Hershey kisses fly onto the sidelines.

“We will prepare, and the team will be ready. Every year is a new team, so although we have a successful history, the present is all that matters in the moment,” said Roth. “I have all the confidence in this group and our program is excited for this opportunity.”

Southern Columbia (14-1): 21 – 14 – 14 – 7 — 56

Northern Lehigh (11-4): 7 – 0 – 0 – 7 — 14

First quarter 

SC — Braeden Wisloski 13 run (Isaac Carter kick), 10:04

SC — Wes Barnes 7 run (Carter kick), 7:11

NL — Matt Frame 1 run (Brett Misera kick), 2:59

SC — Wisloski 53 run (Carter kick), 2:06

Second quarter 

SC — Barnes 6 run (Carter kick), 6:29

SC — Gavin Garcia 13 run (Carter kick), 1:24

Third quarter 

SC — Barnes 45 run (Carter kick), 7:48

SC —Garcia 102 interception return (Carter kick), 0:00

Fourth quarter 

SC — Wisloski 18 run (Carter kick), 11:38

NL —Frame 16 run (Misera kick), 3:07

TOTALS: SC — NL  

First downs: 16 – 8

Rushing-yds: 27-372 – 36-168

Passing: 1-2-1 – 10-15-1

Passing yds: 10 – 149

Total yds: 382 – 317

Fumbles-lost: 1-0 – 2-2

Penalties-yds: 3-45 – 4-38

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Southern Columbia — Braeden Wisloski 7-131, 3 TD’s; Wes Barnes 8-120, 3 TD’s; Gavin Garcia 6-106, TD; Matt Masala 3-17; Carter Madden 2-4; Louden Murphy 1-(-6). Northern Lehigh — Matt Frame 19-89, 2 TD’s; Trevor Amorim 13-82; Nick Frame 2-2; Dylan Smoyer 2-(-5).

PASSING: Southern Columbia — Blake Wise 1-2-1, 10 yds. Northern Lehigh — Dylan Smoyer 10-15-1, 149 yds.

RECEIVING: Southern Columbia — Jake Rose 1-10. Northern Lehigh — Nick Frame 3-95; Trevor Amorim 5-38; Brett Misera 1-11; Austin Smyth 1-5.

 

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