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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, October 10th, 2020
Outside of Gavin Garcia on offense, Southern Columbia lost essentially all of its offensive production from last year’s undefeated team. The Tigers have continued their long-standing philosophy of not ‘rebuilding’ but rather ‘reloading’ which has continued to keep them at the top of the state rankings. Having to replace everyone except for the center up front, the offensive line continues to build chemistry as the wins continue to stack up. Southern’s victory at Hughesville by a score of 56-7 not only put a damper on their Homecoming, but it also moved the Tigers state record to 85 consecutive regular season victories.
Last season, it took until game six for the starting defense to be scored upon. This year, with only two starters returning, the starters have kept a clean slate through four games thus far. On Friday at Harold L. Schaefer Memorial Stadium, the Tigers defense didn’t allow a first down on any of the Spartans first six possessions. “We knew our defensive line would be our strength with having some guys back that rotated in for us last season. Probably our most physical guy up front would have been Tyler Waltman, but he hasn’t been able to play yet due to non-injury reasons,” SCA head coach Jim Roth said. “Our linebackers have been solid with Wade Kerstetter being the veteran of the group, but Garrett Garcia has been a surprise with his play as a freshman. Then our secondary hasn’t had any breakdowns thus far with three seniors in those positions.”
The Tigers scored touchdowns following five punts and a kickoff thanks to a safety when the Spartans sailed a snap out of their own endzone to start the game. Gavin Garcia, who came in averaging a ridiculous 22.6 yards per carry, somehow found a way to elevate that number even higher. The junior scored touchdowns on three of his four carries totaling 194 yards. Sophomore running back Braeden Wisloski had just one carry and one reception on the evening, but he crossed the goal line on both opportunities. “Our backs have been amazing, so if you are able to get a good block on a defender for just a second or two, you will see one of them running down the field to the endzone,” said left tackle Carson Savitski.
The offensive line has been the biggest surprise for Roth in 2020. “That’s what has enabled us to keep at this pace for the last few years of playing at a high level,” said Roth. “They aren’t dominating the opposition necessarily, but with the backs that we have it doesn’t take much more than just initial execution off the snap.” Although the starting unit hasn’t gotten an abundance of time on the field together due to the Tigers continuing to destroy opponents, every snap counts according to the new starters. “Most of us played together last season on the jayvee team, but we put in a lot of work in the offseason to get stronger and quicker. The more we play together, the more confidence we will gain,” Savitski said.
On the first offensive play of the game, Gavin Garcia took a handoff to the right side of the field and simply outran the entire Hughesville defense 79 yards for a score. On the next series, sophomore Wes Barnes took his first carry for a touchdown of 40 yards. The third series, on the first play, Liam Klebon hit Jake Davis on a slant pattern for a 37-yard touchdown pass following the safety to give the Tigers a 22-0 lead with still 5:40 remaining in the first quarter.
The same results happened on the next three drives. Gavin Garcia took his second carry to pay dirt from 53 yards out on the first play of the drive. Then on the next two drives, Wisloski scored on a 60-yard run and a 21-yard reception as the Tigers continued to make their oppositions look like stationary traffic cones. “Our backs don’t get many touches. We have been making the most of the opportunities though,” Wisloski said. “When you are up 50-0 at halftime, there isn’t much more you can do. The line has been blocking well, then we just hit the holes and do our thing.”
The starting defense once again held the opposition to negative yardage. The Tigers are tough enough against the run, but the pass defense has continued to excel with the help of the front four rushing the quarterback. “Our goal every game is to give the other team no chances. Nothing at all,” said Derek Berlitz who had two sacks in the victory. “It has been amazing to keep up with how the past players have done it.” In the first half, SCA limited Hughesville to just one completion on eight attempts. “When we get to the quarterback fast and put the pressure on, it helps our secondary make plays,” the junior defensive end said.
The often-overlooked part of the game is special teams, and with how often the Tigers score, the kickoff team enjoys making bone-crushing hits to fuel the defense. “You just want to go hard every play of the game. When you get the chance to hit somebody, you take advantage of it,” said Wisloski who made a stop on special teams after his first touchdown that hurt to watch. Fellow sophomore Barnes made another one in the second quarter that made everyone thankful that helmet technology has improved over the years.
Hughesville (1-4) will travel to Middleburg next Friday to take on the Mustangs of Midd-West. Southern (4-0) will look to continue their unprecedented streak next week as they host Lewisburg at Tiger Stadium. The Green Dragons are the last team to defeat the Tigers at home in the regular season when they did so in 2010. “We just take it one game at a time, and we want to do the best we can whenever we are on the field,” Wisloski said.
Southern Columbia 56, Hughesville 7
First downs 9 15
Rushes-yards 47-106 26-427
Passing yards 72 63
Total yards 178 490
Passing (C-A-I) 5-12-1 3-3-0
Penalties 2-20 3-15
Fumbles/lost 0-0 0-0
HUGHESVILLE (1-4) 0 0 0 7 — 7
SOUTHERN (4-0) 36 14 0 6 — 56
S — Gavin Garcia, 79-yard run (kick missed)
S — Wes Barnes, 40-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Safety
S — Jake Davis, 37-yard pass from Liam Klebon (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 53-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Braeden Wisloski, 60-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Braeden Wisloski, 21-yard pass from Liam Klebon (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 54-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
H — Devin Swank, 9-yard run (Cassie Heiney kick)
S — Matt Masala 15-yard run (no attempt)
RUSHING: HUGHESVILLE — Colton Yocum 22-68; Mikey Dylina 9-26; Devin Swank 9-14, TD; Brenden Knight 1-4; Angelo Ferrigno 1-3; Joey Swink 5-(-9). SOUTHERN — Gavin Garcia 4-194, 3 TD’s; Wes Barnes 6-91, TD; Braeden Wisloski 1-60, TD; Trevor Yorks 5-28; Connor Gallagher 5-21; Matt Masala 4-18, TD; Liam Klebon 1-15
PASSING: HUGHESVILLE— Joey Swink 5-12-1, 72 yds. SOUTHERN — Liam Klebon 3-3-0, 63 yds, 2 TD’s.
RECEIVING: HUGHESVILLE — Hunter Herr 2-58, Devin Swank 2-10, Justin Fowler 1-4. SOUTHERN — Jake Davis 2-42, TD; Braeden Wisloski 1-21, TD.
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