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Written by: Dave Fegley on Sunday, November 10th, 2019
By: Dave Fegley (11-10-19)
Earlier in the week, North Penn-Mansfield’s head coach Tom Dickinson was asked about his team’s chances when taking on Southern Columbia in the District IV Class 2A semi-final, and the longtime Panthers’ leader didn’t mince his words. “It’s an impossible task,” said Dickinson. Although technically anything is possible, the honest response couldn’t be any truer. That has just been the reality for any team that has had to take on the Tigers for what seems like forever.
Southern Columbia scored 28 first quarter points, which is more than the 26 that they have surrendered in total on the season, and the Tigers cruised to a 42-0 victory to advance to next week’s final which will be hosted by the state’s top-ranked team. “It was one of those games where you come in as a big favorite. You want your guys to come out and take care of business and stay healthy for the next round. We were able to do just that,” said SCA’s head coach Jim Roth.
The recipe for success was what has become the standard for the Tigers. Score a lot of points early and shut down the opponent completely on the ground. The only ‘problem’ for SCA on offense has been deciding each week which player should score first. For the second consecutive week, Julian Fleming was the first to cross the goal-line. With still 10:48 remaining in the first quarter, as crazy as it sounds, the score was out of reach with the Tigers up 7-0. “We don’t take any team lightly. There isn’t any reason to when you are competing. We come ready to work in practice every week. Then we go out for the game and try to dominate,” said linebacker Nate Crowl.
The Tigers started their second drive from their own 21-yard line due to not having Fleming field the punt and just letting it roll dead. Again, as crazy as it sounds, that has become the norm in order to give SCA a longer field to work with hoping to get more players touches before making their usual stop in the endzone to end each drive. On the third play of that possession, Gaige Garcia ran through four different tackles attempts on his way to pay dirt from 45 yards out.
Just over a minute later, on the next play after Preston Zachman picked off a pass by Colton Litzelman, Zachman hit Fleming on a 19-yard slant pattern to make the score 21-0. “We threw the ball early on. We still didn’t throw a lot, but when we get up to a big lead we don’t want to be throwing and running the score up. There is no need for that,” Roth said. Fleming now has a total of 5,261 yards receiving for his career which is enough to move him up to 9th all-time in the history of the Unites States.
With 2:41 left in the first quarter, Gavin Garcia scored on another one of his SportsCenter Top 10 worthy runs. The sophomore didn’t have much of a hole on the left side of the field, but instead of taking the loss he tried to make something out of nothing. It worked as he ran backwards to get to the other side of the field and then weaved in and out of tackle attempts for a 27-yard touchdown run. “I don’t know how he does it sometimes. It seems like he runs a mile during the game with all of his spins, jukes, and change of direction carries,” said Roth. “You think he is down, but then a couple of seconds later he appears and is running for the endzone. It is just amazing to see at times.”
Southern started the second quarter with backup quarterback Ron Zsido under center. Roth decided to give the senior some reps with the first team which allowed Zachman to rest and watch the final three quarters from the sidelines after his productive first quarter on both sides of the ball. On the second play of the drive, Zsido handed the ball off to Gaige Garcia and the senior carried the pigskin 89 yards to the endzone making the score 35-0 with 10:57 left in the half. The touchdown was the 150th of his career overall making him just the 14th player to ever reach the mark in the USA.
After the defense forced another quick punt, Gavin Garcia almost duplicated what he did on his first touchdown. This time it was just going in the opposite direction from 65 yards out. After weaving his way from one side of the field to the other and reaching the endzone, the score was called back due to offsetting personal foul penalties against each team. With the drive ending in a rare punt, it wouldn’t take long for Garcia to get another chance to score. “That was a little frustrating, but that is football. Penalties happen all the time and I was able to get another chance to score a couple of minutes later which felt like a little bit of revenge,” said Garcia.
With the starting defense watching from the sideline, Garcia was in at cornerback with the second string, and he intercepted a pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown with 5:40 left in the half. On the return, the magician covered about 100 yards of field again before reaching the golden section of turf on Jim Roth field. “Every time I touch the ball, the goal is to not get tackled. I’m going to do anything that I can to score,” said Garcia who might need to consider joining the cross country team as well next year. “Whether that means trying to break tackles or running around in the open field, I just try to make things happen.”
Ethan Haupt, who has been busy with kicking a lot on the season, converted another extra point to make the score 42-0. The first-year player has now converted on 87 of his 91 PAT’s in 2019. The senior is on pace to break the state record for the most extra points in a season, and incredibly would be the third different Tiger to break that record in the last three seasons if the Tigers keep scoring at a record pace. “It has been an absolutely amazing experience being a part of this team,” said Haupt who was also a starter on Southern’s soccer team as a defender. “Surprisingly my leg doesn’t feel too worn. The kickoffs put more on my leg than the PAT’s, but all the adrenaline rushing through you kind of takes over and I don’t feel tired until after the game or the next day.”
With the Mercy Rule in place, the second half was a quick one. Neither team was able to find the endzone over the final 24 minutes of play. Each team had a drive that ended inside the opponents 10-yard line on a fumble. The one that the Tigers forced with under three minutes remaining was well received by SCA’s starting unit watching from the sideline. “It can be frustrating when you have a shutout going and then the other team scores on the backups with their starters. It looked like they were going to score late, but our younger guys deserve credit for keeping the zero on the opponents’ side of the scoreboard by the end of the game,” Southern’s all-time leading tackler Cal Haladay said.
North Penn-Mansfield saw their season come to an end, but the Panthers will have nearly their entire roster returning next season including their quarterback, Litzelman, who finished with over 1,800 yards passing. Their top receiver and rusher will also return in 2020. “Coach Roth does it right. They did what they needed to in order to get the win by taking care of business. They have talent all over the field,” Dickinson said. “We lose just three seniors and I think our guys learned a lesson in this game of seeing what it takes to be the best. I am not disappointed in our effort. We just happened to have to take on an unbelievable football team.”
Next Saturday, Southern will host the district title game as they look to win their 27th District IV gold in the past 29 years. Their opponent will once again be Mount Carmel Area who defeated Troy 53-28 in the other semi-final game on Saturday. The Tigers blanked the Red Tornadoes in week two at Tiger Stadium 48-0. The winner of that matchup will take on Upper Dauphin who has a bye next week after earning the District III crown on Friday.
SCA: 28-14-0-0 = 42
NPM: 0-0-0-0 = 0
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (12-0)
Gaige Garcia 4-154, 2 TD’s; Gavin Garcia 5-91, TD; Ty Roadarmel 4-22; Wes Barnes 6-81; Trevor Yorks 2-11; Matt Masala 2-10; Jayden McCormick 2-4; Kole Biscoe 1-0; Ron Zsido 2-(-5)
Preston Zachman 4-5-0, 64 yds, 2 TD’s; Ron Zsido 1-2-0, (-3) yards
Julian Fleming 4-64, 2 TD’s; Liam Klebon 1-(-3)
First Downs: 14
NORTH PENN-MANSFIELD (5-7)
Noah Spencer 6-11; Koleton Roupp 7-2; Bryan Bogaczyk 4-(-5); Colton Litzelman 1-(-1); Kohen Lehman 1-(-1); Cameron Fabian 1-(-2)
Colton Litzelman 16-27-2, 141 yds
Koleton Roupp 5-58; Kaelan Matczak 2-42; Noah Spencer 4-20; Brandon Thompson 1-13; Logan Tokarz 1-8; Bryan Bogaczyk 1-2; Mitch Tice 1-0; Cameron Fabian 1-(-2)
First Downs: 7
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