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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, October 31st, 2020
Southern Columbia has gone back to the early years of Jim Roth’s tenure, which began in 1984, by keeping the offense relatively simple in terms of play selection during the 2020 unforgettable regular season. Why throw the football if you can run it with relative ease? After another undefeated regular season, the Tigers started off their postseason with a 49-7 home win over Line Mountain by mixing in the passing game. “Offensively, we had early success throwing the football which was a positive because we weren’t having much consistency in the regular season with that,” said the veteran coach. “From a defensive standpoint, we were very pleased with the way we were able to basically shut down a team that came in scoring a lot of points off of some deceptive looks.”
In their District 4 playoff opener, Southern opted to throw the ball early on and it paid off. On the second play from scrimmage the junior tandem of Liam Klebon and Jake Rose connected on a 45-yard pass to put the Tigers in front 7-0 less than a minute in. Klebon completed a 49-yard pass on the next drive to Colin Sharrow for the senior’s first career reception from his tight end position. That set up a 27-yard touchdown run for Gavin Garcia to put SCA in front 14-0 with 8:16 left in the first quarter. “It felt better to feel like I could actually complete some passes. We know how to complete them, it has just been a little rough lately,” said Klebon who finished with exactly 100 yards passing.
From that point forward, it was back to the ground and pound game that has continued to pay dividends. Braeden Wisloski scored on a 32-yard run and Garcia finished off the dominant first quarter with a 12-yard jaunt making the score 28-0. “Throwing the ball early helped to get Liam on track and build his confidence. We all know he can do it. That just spreads out the defense and allows our o-line to create holes forcing them to have to defend both the run and pass,” Wisloski said. The four touchdowns came on just 11 total plays. Add in the fact that Line Mountain didn’t complete a pass during the Halloween Eve contest, and there was really no way that the Eagles were going to trick the Tigers into allowing a comeback attempt.
The only score of the second quarter came late in the first half. Ian Yoder intercepted his first of two passes, and it set up a third Garcia score on a run of 56 yards with 1:28 left in the half to put the game into the Mercy Rule. The Tigers had their annual Homecoming, the first one ever during the playoffs because of the coronavirus, and the defense made their home in the Eagles backfield by plowing through the opposition all evening. “They’re a really fast team and they just keep on attacking,” said Line Mountain coach Brandon Carson “With how quick that their defensive line gets off the ball, and then with how quickly that their linebackers fill the holes, we didn’t execute our blocking assignments.”
The Tigers starting defense continued to prove that they aren’t willing to allow a touchdown while they are on the field. In the first half, they allowed just 35 yards on the 23 plays that the Eagles had on offense. “Our defense has continued to impress us. Most of them were seeing their first playoff game as starters and they were dialed in on making plays. We just stressed being aggressive, disciplined, and playing your area. I thought our guys did a good in all of those aspects,” said Roth. The Tigers only allowed one first down in the opening half and that came on a fake punt on the final play of the first quarter. The longest play from scrimmage for Line Mountain was a mere nine yards.
The lone drive for Southern’s starting offense in the second half resulted in a lineman getting rewarded with a touchdown to make the score 42-0. Jaxson Purnell recovered a fumble when Wes Barnes was trying to fight off a tackle attempt near the goal line. The senior pounced on it in the end zone to give him a memory that he will remember for a long time. “It was amazing. I saw it come out of his arm and I don’t think I ever moved so quick,” Purnell said. “It is just good to help the team out. Even when we have a slight mishap someone is always there to pick the other person up.”
In the fourth quarter, Yoder went in for the second straight game as the backup quarterback, and for the second week in a row he found pay dirt. His 23-yard scamper made it 49-0 with 10:48 to play after Isaac Carter connected on his seventh extra point of the evening. Line Mountain finally got on the board with 6:30 left to play when Garrett Laudenslager scored on a 22-yard run against the SCA backup unit.
The Eagles are hoping to find a couple of more regular season games now that they are eliminated from the postseason with the first-round loss. “Coming into the game we knew we had to be pretty much mistake free to have any chance and that just simply wasn’t the case. We are hopeful that we can fix some things at practice and get a few more wins this year,” said Carson. Due to the condensed regular season, the PIAA is allowing all schools that missed out on the postseason, or were eliminated, to continue to play regular season games for a maximum of 10 total contests.
Southern Columbia will look to win a record 28th district championship next Friday, and the first-year starters are looking forward to it. “It is a lot more fun when you are actually doing something that is meaningful for the team rather than just coming in for a player here and there or once the game is already in hand,” Klebon said. South Williamsport, who defeated Troy 35-18, will come to Tiger Stadium to try and upset the state’s top-ranked team. “This is when you want to start to peak. By now, the players know what they need to do. As a coach, you just hope that they continue to stay focused and do their jobs,” Roth said. The last time Southern lost a game was in the 2016 PIAA Class 2A State Championship.
Southern Columbia 49, Line Mountain 7
First downs 7 18
Rushes-yards 40-133 34-301
Passing yards 0 100
Total yards 133 401
Passing (C-A-I) 0-3-2 3-4-0
Penalties 4-30 5-45
Fumbles/lost 4-2 2-1
LINE MTN (4-2) 0 0 0 7 — 7
SOUTHERN (8-0) 28 7 7 7 — 49
S — Jake Rose, 45-yard pass from Liam Klebon (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 27-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Braeden Wisloski, 32-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 12-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 56-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Jaxson Purnell, fumble recovery in end zone (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Ian Yoder, 23-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
L — Garret Laudenslager, 22-yard run (Brayden Boyer kick)
RUSHING: LINE MTN — Jacob Feese 22-67; Garret Laudenslager 8-41, TD; Beau Keim 7-20, Nolan Baumert 3-5. SOUTHERN — Gavin Garcia 12-134, 3 TD’s; Wes Barnes 8-78; Braeden Wisloski 4-52, TD; Ian Yoder 2-20, TD; Connor Gallagher 2-9; Liam Klebon 2-4; Matt Masala 3-3; Trevor Yorks 1-1.
PASSING: LINE MTN — Jacob Feese 0-3-2. SOUTHERN — Liam Klebon 3-4-0, 100 yds, TD.
RECEIVING: LINE MTN — None. SOUTHERN — Jake Rose 2-51, TD; Colin Sharrow 1-49.
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