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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, September 25th, 2021
Southern’s injuries didn’t stop winning streak
Southern Columbia left their home turf with a 40-14 Mercy Rule victory over Mount Carmel Area last night, but it more than likely will be just the first of two meetings this year at Tiger Stadium between the rivals.
“In the post-game handshake, the first thing I said to Coach (John) Darrah was good game and that we will be seeing each other again this season,” said Southern coach Jim Roth.
It was the 13th consecutive win for the Tigers in their cross-town series with the Red Tornadoes, but it didn’t come without a price paid in the health department.
Southern is now riding a 65-game winning streak, with a chance to tie the state record next week, but they may very well be short-handed as they take on their biggest challenge of the regular season since traveling to South Carolina two years ago for an ESPN showcase game against Hammond.
In the 93rd consecutive regular season victory for the Tigers, the injury bug continued to do its part in trying to bring the 4-time defending PIAA champions down. Three of SCA’s four starters in the backfield were sidelined in the game with injuries including their quarterback, fullback, and one halfback.
The one that was able to stay healthy was once again the kryptonite to the opponent. Gavin Garcia scored three touchdowns, which he has done in every game this season, to help take Southern’s halftime lead of 12-0 to 40-0 by the end of the third quarter.
Garcia nearly topped the 200-yard rushing mark for the third game in a row, and the senior is now up to 17 touchdowns on the season. The star back may be without some of his explosive teammates, but the ones that are stepping in have shown their will to give it everything that they have.
“We will get everyone back hopefully soon, but until we are healthy, it is important for guys to step in and do the job. The line is blocking good, and the defense continues to play well,” said senior Matt Masala who is filling in at the halfback spot opposite of Garcia. “When Gavin (Garcia) gets the ball, I just try to get the best block that I can when he comes to my side to help him get more yards.”
Mount Carmel took the opening kickoff and executed their game plan about as well as they could have hoped to start the game. Using up more than half of the clock in the first quarter, and threatening to score nearing the red zone, the Red Tornadoes had a miscue on a third down.
A miscommunication between the center and quarterback sent a shot gun snap deep behind their line of scrimmage on the 10th play of the drive forcing MCA to punt to SCA.
“After that first drive, we tried to fill the holes faster and that helped to stuff their running game. Going into next week, we want to play our best and keep this streak alive,” said sophomore linebacker Garrett Garcia who came in on pace to break the school record for tackles in a season if his team is able to get back to Hershey for a sixth time in a row.
The younger Garcia entered the game with 50 tackles. Cal Haladay, who is now starting for an undefeated Michigan State team, holds the program record with 151 tackles in a season.
The Tigers drove 80 yards on seven plays to take a 6-0 lead on their initial drive with 3:45 left in the first quarter. On a 4th down and 7, Gavin Garcia took a reverse 38 yards to the end zone.
“I think the guys did a much better job of coming out focused this week compared to last week. They knew that it was going to be another challenge, but they handled it well. The defense didn’t break on that first drive, and the offense was able to capitalize,” Roth said.
In the second quarter, Southern turned another fourth down into a score. After Liam Klebon connected with Jake Rose for a 47-yard completion, Wes Barnes scored on a fourth down from the two to give the Tigers a 12-0 lead at halftime.
The third quarter was when the Tigers scored four more touchdowns to put the game away. Garcia scored on runs of 31 and 34 yards, then Masala punched in a five-yard carry, and Trevor Yorks finished off the scoring with a run just inside of the 10 to put the game into the Mercy Rule.
The Red Tornadoes scored two touchdowns in the final quarter as both teams were playing their reserves over the final 12 minutes of action. Backup quarterbacks Cole Spears (4 yards) and Matt Balichik (1 yard) each scored on short runs.
Mount Carmel (3-2) will host Bloomsburg next week and will be motivated to avenge last season’s loss to the Panthers before the Red Tornadoes had to cancel the rest of their season due to an off-the-field hazing incident that involved a police investigation.
Southern (5-0) will put their 3,627-day regular season winning streak on the line against an undefeated Wyomissing squad next Friday on Jim Roth Field. The Spartans will enter after coming up just two touchdowns short of winning last year’s PIAA Class 3A championship.
With a loaded roster returning for the Spartans, the Tigers are hoping to get some rest to allow some of their starters to return. Braeden Wisloski wasn’t expected to play against Mount Carmel, but the junior gave it a go before having to pull himself late in the first half. Barnes has been dealing with injuries since the team’s scrimmage in August. Klebon returned to the sidelines for the second half in street clothes, and there are three other starters that have missed prior games already this season.
“It is going to be insane. We don’t know if Liam (Klebon) will be able to play, or if we will have two of our backs with Braeden (Wisloski) and Wes (Barnes) not being healthy, but we just need to come ready to play. We have guys that will step in and try and do their part, so we need it to be a team effort and work together from the start,” said Rose who was named the Homecoming King earlier in the afternoon.
Mount Carmel Area (3-2) 0 – 0 – 0 – 14 — 14
Southern Columbia (5-0) 6 – 6 – 28 – 0 — 40
S — Gavin Garcia 38 run (kick blocked), 3:45
S — Wes Barnes 2 run (run failed), 4:27
S — Garcia 31 run (pass failed), 10:38
S — Garcia 34 run (Blake Wise to Derek Berlitz), 6:39
S — Matt Masala 5 run (Issac Carter kick), 4:58
S — Trevor Yorks 9 run (Carter kick), 1:38
M — Cole Spears 4 run (Julien Stellar kick), 8:23
M — Matt Balichik 1 run (Stellar kick), 5:43
MCA — SCA
First downs: 11 – 13
Rushing-yds: 40-154 – 34-345
Passing: 4-7-0 – 4-5-0
Passing yds: 82 – 72
Total yds: 236 – 417
Fumbles-lost: 3-1 – 2-1
Penalties-yds: 3-25 – 7-53
RUSHING: Southern Columbia — Gavin Garcia, 13-194, 3 TDs; Wes Barnes, 7-54, TD; Carter Madden, 3-35; Braeden Wisloski, 3-22; Liam Klebon, 2-14; Matt Masala, 3-13, TD; Trevor Yorks, 1-9, TD; Louden Murphy, 2-4. Mount Carmel — Michael Farranato, 5-42; Julien Stellar 9-24; Thomas Davitt 3-23; Pedro Feliciano 10-22, Matthew Balichik, 3-15, TD; Cole Spears, 3-13, TD; Andrew Lukoskie 1-9; Ryan Weidner 1-4; Xavier Diaz 1-4; Garrett Varano 2-2; Maddox Reed 1-(-1); Ethan Urbanowicz 1-(-3).
PASSING: Southern Columbia — Liam Klebon 2-2-0, 52 yds; Blake Wise 2-3-0, 20 yds. Mount Carmel — Pedro Feliciano 3-5-0 45 yds; Matthew Balichik 1-1-0 37 yds; Cole Spears 0-1-0.
RECEIVING: Southern Columbia — Jake Rose 1-47; Gavin Garcia 1-27; Wes Barnes 2-(-2). Mount Carmel — Garrett Varano 2-41, Michael Farranato 1-4; Al Bailey 1-37.
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