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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, November 20th, 2021
Gavin Garcia trails his older brother, 2020 Southern Columbia alum Gaige Garcia, by 27 touchdowns for his career. Well, after his four touchdown performance to beat Mount Carmel Area in the District 4 Class 2A Championship, the senior now trails the state record for career touchdowns by that same amount after his Tigers beat Mount Carmel Area for a 14th consecutive time, 41-14 at Tiger Stadium.
With his second touchdown, a 22-yard run in the second quarter, Gavin moved into second place all-time in Pennsylvania high school football history. The 2020 2A Player of the Year leaped former South Williamsport running back Dominic Bragalone (129 touchdowns), and the halfback now stands at 132 heading into next week’s PIAA quarterfinal with 132 total trips to pay dirt.
Gaige, the oldest of four Garcia boys, holds the Keystone State’s mark with 159 during his tenure as a Tiger. Although the margin is too wide to catch his brother, the current senior is still on pace to break PA’s career mark for yards per carry after picking up 219 more yards on just 11 rushing attempts in the win over the Tornadoes.
“You never know what to expect when Gavin gets the ball. It has been that way for four years now. He has made about as many moves as any human possibly can. Sometimes he is straight ahead. Sometimes he makes about five cuts. Sometimes he runs from one side of the field to the other. He can do it any possible way,” Southern head coach Jim Roth said.
After Mount Carmel scored the game’s opening touchdown on a 31-yard pass from senior running back Julien Stellar to sophomore running back Xavier Diaz toward the end of the first quarter, the Tigers blocked the extra point attempt from Stellar.
Just over a minute later, Garcia weaved through the opposition for a 49-yard touchdown. After Isaac Carter made the extra point with just 36 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, Southern was in command for the rest of the evening on Jim Roth Field.
“We knew coming in that it was going to be a battle. They are a physical football team, but we were able to make things happen. Props to my linemen for creating lanes for me to get out in space,” Garcia said. “Now that we are pretty much all healthy, we will see what we can do to close out the year.”
Arguably the play of the night however came on a Tiger miscue as SCA led 14-6 with under two minutes left until halftime.
On a second down run, Mount Carmel sent two linebackers as Southern’s Braeden Wisloski and Gavin Garcia were switching ball carriers on one of the Tigers well-known reverse plays.
One of the Tornado linebackers read the play from the snap, and dislodged the ball causing it to trickle backwards. Wisloski was able to pounce on it before the other players could get to the ball.
That set up a 3rd & 28, but all the Tigers needed was to call Garcia’s name. The Kent State commit picked up the first down and took it in for the touchdown from 32 yards out.
“They read that from the start apparently. Once the ball was free, you have to give Braeden (Wisloski) all the credit for being able to make that hustle play to keep us in possession,” said Garcia.
Leading 21-6, Southern officially stuck the nail in Mount Carmel’s coffin early in the third quarter. Blake Wise, who is the starter after Tiger senior Liam Klebon went down with a neck injury on Jim Roth Field during the regular season meeting against the Red Tornadoes, dropped back in play-action and viewed the field.
Jake Rose blew past his defender and Wise hit him in stride for a 46-yard strike to extend Southern’s lead to 28-6. From that point, it was just a matter of time until Southern would pick up its 29th district gold, all coming in the last 31 years. At that point, all of the wind seemed to be taken out of the Tornadoes.
“With how often we run, and with how effective our running game is, anytime we go with a run-fake it seems to set up an opening. I trust Jake Rose everytime that I throw it towards him. He is fast and has the size to come down with the ball and that was a big play,” Wise said.
Southern now gets the rare opportunity to host a PIAA playoff game. On Friday, District 7 champion Richland will make the trip to Tiger Stadium to take on the four-time defending state champions. This will be the third straight meeting between the two programs in the postseason over a three-year span.
“They are more of a spread-team. The players know their style of play from last season and the year prior, but you can’t expect them to play exactly the same way. The bottom line is we need to come in and played focused on defense and stay disciplined,” Roth said.
Mount Carmel Area (10-3) 6 – 0 – 0 – 8 — 14
Southern Columbia (12-1) 7 – 14 – 13 – 7 — 41
M — Xavier Diaz 31 pass from Julien Stellar (kick blocked), 2:02
S — Gavin Garcia 49 run (Issac Carter kick), 0:36
S — Garcia 22 run (Carter kick), 7:02
S — Garcia 32 run (Carter kick), 1:22
S — Jake Rose 46 pass from Blake Wise (Carter kick), 10:41
S — Wes Barnes 5 run (Carter kick), 2:50
M — Michael Farronato 7 run (Stellar run), 8:13
S —Garcia 64 run (no attempt), 5:08
MCA — SCA
First downs: 8 – 16
Rushing-yds: 47-189 – 34-335
Passing: 3-5-0 – 3-4-0
Passing yds: 34 – 73
Total yds: 223 – 408
Fumbles-lost: 1-0 – 2-1
Penalties-yds: 4-40 – 3-30
RUSHING: Southern Columbia — Gavin Garcia, 11-219, 4 TD’s; Braeden Wisloski, 9-71; Wes Barnes, 11-41, TD; Matt Masala, 1-3; Carter Madden, 2-1.
Mount Carmel — Pedro Feliciano 15-77; Julien Stellar 17-46; Xavier Diaz 4-27; Michael Farronato, 5-19; Cole Spears, 2-8, Ryan Weidner 2-7; Thomas Davitt 2-5.
PASSING: Southern Columbia —Blake Wise 3-4-0, 73 yds, TD.
Mount Carmel — Julien Stellar 1-1-0, 31 yds, TD; Pedro Feliciano 2-4-0, 3 yds.
RECEIVING: Southern Columbia — Jake Rose 3-73, TD. Mount Carmel — Xavier Diaz 1-31, TD; Michael Farronato 2-3.
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