Southern’s Friday Ends With A 13th State Gold
Tagged under: District 4, District 8, Gameday Hub, News
Dave Fegley | December 9, 2022
Tigers beat Bulldogs for sixth straight PIAA Class 2A Championship
As Tom Petty used to jam out as the leader of the Heartbreakers famously singing the words, “Yeah runnin’ down a dream that never would come to me. Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads. Runnin’ down a dream,” the lyrics seem to have really resonated within the mentality of Southern Columbia this season.
On Friday, that dream, which was once a mystery this season, turned into a reality as the Tigers finished the season with a sixth consecutive PIAA Class 2A Championship. With a victory over Westinghouse 37-22, Southern broke their own state record for the most Pennsylvania golds in a row as they bring home a state-record 13th trophy to the display case.
“Winning a state championship never gets old. However, when you look at the previous 12 times we won, this one is probably the most rewarding. You look at everything that we went through this season, and we had to overcome a lot. From injuries to the losses, this one is special for sure. I have to give credit to everyone involved in the program,” said Southern head coach Jim Roth.
The first half played out to be almost identical to the Tigers most rewarding win of the season up until this one. Back in the District 4 championship victory during a blizzard at the Silver Bowl in Mount Carmel, Southern trailed 6-0 late in the first half. The Tigers scored late in the half to take a 7-6 lead on the Red Tornadoes for good.
Yesterday, at Chapman Field in Mechanicsburg, the Bulldogs were in front 6-0. Once again, showing the heart of a champion, the Tigers grabbed the lead for good.
“We never gave up at any point this season. There were a lot of people sleeping on us after we lost in the regular season. Ultimately, we are the ones that come out as champions,” senior Braeden Wisloski said.
After senior fullback Wes Barnes appeared to have scored on a third down and goal, the Tigers were faced with a fourth and goal from the one. Following a timeout, senior Tyler Arnold entered the game as the quarterback which he has done in different scenarios during the postseason.
After about the fourth effort, with his team blocking in front of him, Arnold was able to cross the goal line. Isaac Carter converted on the extra point to put Southern in front 7-6.
Of all the emotions that were poured out following the victory at Cumberland Valley High School, none were more telling than Carter’s. The junior kicker, that was turned defensive lineman just six weeks ago, could barely get words out of his mouth.
“We just wanted to win so bad. We worked so hard for this. This is the most rewarding feeling in the world. Everyone doubted us and we proved the wrong,” said an emotional Carter.
Following a sack by junior Louden Murphy, Wisloski returned the ensuing punt to the 43. Just two play later, the Maryland commit, burst through the Westinghouse defense. Wisloski’s 38-yard touchdown scamper made the score 13-6.
Following a timeout, the Tigers made it a two-score game when Arnold ran in the two-point conversion to make the score 15-6 with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
“We knew what we had to do after halftime. We just kept battling to try and extend our lead. They were tough up front, but we were able to take control in the second half,” senior offensive tackle Chris Treshock said.
The Bulldogs wouldn’t go away though. With 44 seconds remaining in the quarter, Kahlil Taylor caught a screen pass on a fourth down and took it 56 yards for a touchdown. Quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo then threw a two-point conversion pass to Davon Jones making Southern’s lead just 15-14.
That’s when the play of the game took place. On a third down and 22 from their own 39-yard line, Southern knew they needed to get back some momentum.
“The way that they were lined up on defense, I felt that the play call was going to work. I had a feeling coming into this game that we were going to need to hit on a key pass play,” Roth said.
Junior quarterback Blake Wise dropped back to pass and fired a pass to Wisloski. After spinning out of a tackle, Wisloski raced into the end zone for the 61-yard TD.
“I don’t think they were expecting it. We were running it pretty much every play, so we knew we could catch them off guard,” Wisloski said of the play that put the Tigers in front 22-14. “Blake threw probably his best pass of the year at the perfect time.”
In last year’s state championship win over Serra Catholic, the two connected on a 63-yard touchdown pass in a similar scenario.
“I saw their safety cheating to the other side, so with Braeden running a streak I knew he would be open. He burned his man, and the rest is history. It was almost like a full-circle moment having done it now in two straight championships,” said Wise.
After forcing a three-and-out, it was Murphy’s turn to find the end zone. On the first play of the drive after a short punt, Murphy ran 35 yards to extend the lead to 29-14.
With the injuries piling up for Southern down the stretch, Morsillo found Jones on a 53-yard TD pass and then they finished it off with a two-point conversion with 3:08 remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs couldn’t stop the Tigers though. After a 40-yard run by Barnes gave Southern a first and goal, it was junior Carter Madden scoring to make the score 37-22 on a nine-yard run with 2:04 left as Murphy finished the drive off with a two-point conversion.
“Chris (Treshock) and I were fortunate to be part of four of these championships, but this one is the most special. After Garrett Garcia’s injury and then mine, many people counted us out. Our program is all about continuing to fight, and we fought to win a sixth state championship in a row,” said Barnes.
The Tigers recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and they were then able to run the clock out to finish the dream.
“Our defense played very well in containing their speed. They got two big plays on us, but overall, I couldn’t be happier of the way our defense did the job. Each player on both sides of the ball did their part in making this happen,” Roth said.
Although Southern Columbia (13-3) got to play in a record 21st state title, this was the first for a Westinghouse (14-1) program that has nothing to hang their head on. The Bulldogs inspired a community.
“I want our guys to keep their heads up. We lost to a great football team. The amount of time that we put in that has nothing to do with football, it is something many people don’t understand. There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes in our community,” Westinghouse head coach Donta Green said.
Green, in his fourth year, is trying to build a program like Roth has continued to sustain for the 39 years that he has led Southern Columbia’s program.
“These kids face a lot of adversity outside of football. Whether it is crime or poverty that they see or have to deal with, football is an escape for some of them. I try to make sure that they all keep their grades up in school and continue to become better human beings,” Green said.
Talk about a championship game of a lifetime. Many people on social media are already saying this 2022 Class 2A Championship battle is one of the hardest fought games in PIAA history.
The Bulldogs provided hope for their community going forward, and the Tigers earned the gold medal for their community to cherish.
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