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Written by: Dave Fegley on Sunday, November 3rd, 2019
By: Dave Fegley (11-3-19)
It might have been two days after Halloween, but Southern Columbia still found a way to top the charts and win the scariest performance of the year. Unfortunately for the opponent, Towanda, they were on the other side of the field and learned quickly why the Tigers are ranked #1 in the country according to various polls. Southern won the playoff game 75-0, which was just two points away from breaking the school record for points in a game, to advance in the District IV Class 2A playoff bracket.
The way the Tigers started off on offense would have been enough to make both Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger wet their pants. At first it appeared that the home team might break the school record for points in the first half alone. Then on top of that, the performance by the defense would’ve been enough to make Chucky drop his knife, and leave the doll crying for a pacifier.
The Tigers (11-0) collected another Mercy Rule victory as they took down the Black Knights (3-8) in about as dominant of a fashion as one could ever see. “Even though we knew coming out that we would be the heavy favorites, it was good to see that our guys came out focused. They played hard and started off about as strongly on both of sides of the ball as you can ask for as a coach,” said SCA coach Jim Roth.
The two-time defending PIAA champions scored on seven of their first eight plays on offense. “That start on offense was just crazy,” said sophomore running back Gavin Garcia. “Then for the defense to put up another shutout and our backups to score multiple touchdowns, it was just a great team performance all around.”
On the first play from scrimmage, Preston Zachman found Julian Fleming wide-open behind the Towanda secondary for a 64-yard touchdown pass. Fleming’s future college head coach Ryan Day was in attendance during Ohio State’s bye. The Buckeyes wide receiver coach and former NFL player, Brian Hartline, was also at Tiger Stadium to watch the scoring frenzy take place.
After forcing a three-and-out, Southern Columbia took a two-touchdown lead on a two-play drive. Gaige Garcia picked up 12 yards to move the sticks on the first play, then his younger brother Gavin scored on a 37-yard sprint.
The Tigers took a 21-0 lead just a little over four minutes into the game when Fleming caught a quick pass and outraced the defense for a 44-yard touchdown. That was the final pass that Southern threw in the contest. “On any given play it seemed like we were going to score in this one. I’m a little concerned after throwing those two passes in this game. It really put a lot of stress on my shoulder the way I had to sling it around,” said a joking Zachman after the victory.
Gavin Garcia, who scored touchdowns on all three of his carries, put the Tigers in front 28-0 when he dashed 71 yards on the first play of that possession with 5:21 left in the opening quarter. His third touchdown came on the first play of the next drive on a 35-yard carry. Gaige Garcia then closed out the quarter when he ran one in from 74 yards out with less than a minute to play in the first quarter giving Southern Columbia an astounding 42-0 lead.
With 9:50 left in the first half, Gaige Garcia scored on the first play of another drive. This time the senior took a handoff and ran for a career long run of 92 yards to the end zone to extend the lead to 49-0. “We did a good job with our execution obviously. I’m sure though we will find some things on the film to improve on up front,” said Roth. “You can’t play a perfect game so the goal is to just get better every game.”
Often getting over-looked due to the publicity of the skill position players, the Tigers offensive line has been impressive. “Our goal is to be physical and make the biggest holes that we can for our running backs. Some of us have our careers coming to an end soon, so we don’t want to end with any regrets,” said senior offensive tackle Cam Haladay.
The line is made up of four seniors and two juniors. The seniors are Haladay, Lear Quinton, Jake Herr, and Collin Doraski. “It has really been an amazing experience. Any play somebody can take it the distance,” Doraski said. “After you finish a block, you look up and usually find either Gaige, Gavin, Ty, Julian, or Preston running into the end zone.” The Tigers compiled 651 yards on just 30 total offensive snaps.
Derek Wertman, who is the junior center, knows that the defense has been just as impressive as the offense now during the 11-game Mercy Rule streak in 2019. “It’s impressive that we can move the ball as effectively as we have this year. Then we know we can count on the defense to play great all the time,” said Wertman who along with junior tight end Wade Kerstetter are the only two guys that will return next year.
On the final drive of the first half, fullback Ty Roadarmel was rewarded with some carries. The senior ran up the gut four consecutive times for 63 yards, and his score came on a 14-yard run making the halftime score 56-0. “It’s certainly nice to have as many options as we do on offense. We have guys at every position that we can count on to make plays for us,” Roth said.
In total during the first half, the Tigers offense scored eight times on just 12 offensive snaps. The four times that they didn’t reach pay dirt all resulted in first downs. On defense, the starting unit held the Black Knights to negative-29 yards of offense and one first down before being pulled with more than three minutes remaining in the first half.
In the second half, the Tiger reserves did their part to preserve the shutout. Wes Barnes, Matt Masala, and Trevor Yorks each scored touchdowns. The defense allowed just one player to gain positive yardage on the ground over the final 24 minutes of the quick running clock due to the Mercy Rule being in play.
If not for a seven-yard carry late in the fourth quarter, the Tigers defense would have held the Black Knights to negative yardage for the game. “From the first play we knew that this team was not going to get far on us. We just had that mentality,” said defensive tackle Dyer Stine who had two sacks in the win. “It’s really fun playing with these guys. I love the attitude and excitement they bring to the field.”
Southern Columbia, who has now outscored its opponents 617-26 on the season, will host No. 5 seed North Penn-Mansfield in next week’s semi-final on Saturday night inside Tiger Stadium. The Panthers went on the road and beat Wellsboro 17-14 after losing to them 21-7 in last week’s regular season finale. The other semi-final will have Mount Carmel Area traveling two hours north to take on Troy.
Southern Columbia 75, Towanda 0
TOTALS: TOW SCA
First downs: 1 19
Rushes-yards: 33-(-9) 28-543
Passing yards: 15 108
Total yards: 6 651
Passing (C-A-I): 2-9-0 2-2-0
Penalties: 0-0 4-25
Fumbles/lost: 0-0 0-0
TOWANDA (3-8) 0 0 0 0 — 0
SOUTHERN (11-0) 42 14 7 12 — 75
S — Julian Fleming, 64-yard pass from Preston Zachman (Ethan Haupt kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 37-yard run (Ethan Haupt kick)
S — Julian Fleming, 44-yard pass from Preston Zachman (Ethan Haupt kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 71-yard run (Ethan Haupt kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 35-yard run (Ethan Haupt kick)
S — Gaige Garcia, 74-yard run (Ethan Haupt kick)
S — Gaige Garcia, 92-yard run (Ethan Haupt kick)
S — Ty Roadarmel, 14-yard run (Ethan Haupt kick)
S — Wes Barnes, 10-yard run (Ethan Haupt kick)
S — Matt Masala, 2-yard run (no attempt)
S — Trevor Yorks, 8-yard run (no attempt)
RUSHING: TOWANDA — Wyatt Delamater 4-9; Tanner Kunkle 17-(-9); Jyshaire Robinson 7-(-6); Mason Johnson 2-(-2); Quintin Woodburn 2-(-1). SOUTHERN — Gaige Garcia 3-178, 2 TD’s; Gavin Garcia 3-143, 3 TD’s; Ty Roadarmel 4-63, TD; Wes Barnes 5-64, TD; Matt Masala 6-59, TD; Trevor Yorks 4-19, TD; Braden Heim 2-16; Kole Biscoe 1-1
PASSING: TOWANDA — Tanner Kunkle 2-9-0, 15 yds. SOUTHERN — Preston Zachman 2-2-0, 108 yds, 2 TD’s.
RECEIVING: TOWANDA — Jyshaire Robinson 1-10; Trent Kithcart 1-5. SOUTHERN — Julian Fleming 2-108, 2 TD’s.
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