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Written by: Dave Fegley on Friday, October 2nd, 2020
It was just the first day of October, so it’s a little early to be talking about Halloween, but Southern Columbia’s football team is once again looking awfully scary. Loyalsock Township traveled to Tiger Stadium for a rare Thursday night edition of gridiron action and the Tigers dominated the entirety of the first half jumping out to a 44-0 lead after two quarters.
The rock band Green Day’s advice has always been to “Wake Me Up When September Ends” but unfortunately that more often than not turns into a real-life nightmare for SCA opponents. The final score ended in Southern’s favor 50-20, but any fan in attendance or listening at home knew that the three-time defending PIAA 2A champions were even more preeminent than their counterpart.
The black and gold built a 28-0 first quarter lead with contributions coming in every which way on their way to their 84th consecutive regular season win, and 51st straight overall. On the first play after the opening kickoff, Southern senior Nick Zeigler intercepted Chase Cavanaugh’s pass to give SCA’s lethal offensive attack the ball. “I had a feeling they were going to come my way being a new starter this year, but once I saw the ball in the air it was mine,” said the defensive back.
Two plays later, the junior combination of Liam Klebon and Gavin Garcia connected through the air to put the Tigers in front 6-0. Garcia, who somehow snuck behind the defense, was open to the point that he could have taken a power nap before trotting to the end zone. “When you have a player that ends up that wide open, the only concern is overthrowing the intended target,” said Southern head coach Jim Roth. “Gavin had to come back to the ball as it hung in the air, but that is perfectly fine in that scenario.”
Braeden Wisloski was the main cog in the Tigers next two touchdowns over a 16-second span. The sophomore running back scored on an 8-yard run, and then forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that was recovered by freshman Garrett Garcia. The very next play Wisloski was rewarded with a four-yard run to extend the lead to 21-0 after Isaac Carter, who played the first half of a soccer game in Montoursville earlier in the evening, converted the PAT. “Braeden has been playing really well and it helps me out on the other side. Teams can’t focus on either of us because we are both capable of making big plays at any moment,” said Gavin Garcia.
After forcing a three-and-out, Gavin Garcia zipped past the Lancers on the first play of that drive. The 42-yard carry made the score 28-0. “Right now we are doing pretty good up front. There is still a learning curve with so many new guys up front, but I think we are adapting well as a unit,” said senior center Derek Wertman who is the only returning starter on the offensive line. The Tigers went up against a Lancer defensive line that averaged 273 pounds across the front. “In a situation like that it is important to stay low and keeping driving them by being physical with them,” Wertman said.
Wisloski scored his third touchdown from two yards out on the first play of the second quarter. After a high fourth down snap thanks to another SCA stop, the Tigers picked up a safety when Loyalsock punter Tyler Gee was tackled in the end zone making the score 37-0. Gavin Garcia joined Wisloski in the first half three touchdown club on the next offensive play after the safety. The junior dashed 78 yards to give the Tigers a 44-0 lead at the break. Astonishingly, it was the 22nd consecutive game that Southern has put their opponent into the Mercy Rule dating back to the 2018 District 4 championship over Mount Carmel Area.
Unfortunately, in the second half, things got out of hand over the final two quarters. With the game already decided, the Tigers kept their starting unit on the sidelines after intermission. The Lancers elected to keep their starters in to go up against Southern’s second and third string. “I was impressed with the way we were able to come out and score often in that first half to build a big lead. Gavin and Braeden were once again very explosive running the football,” said Roth. “It makes for a tough situation then in the second half when you have one side sending out backups and the other having their starters in. It wasn’t a great situation the way the second half played out.”
Cavanaugh, who’s only competition in the first half was to a Tiger, was able to boost his stats in the second half on the ground. The senior was limited to less than three yards a carry against the SCA starters, but he finished with over 100 yards taking advantage of the backup unit of the Tigers. The returning PHAC first team all-star scored on a third quarter run of nine yards four plays after a 64-yard carry.
Starting running back Korie Mayer scored late in the third quarter and then in the middle of the fourth to make the score 44-20. The senior’s touchdowns came on runs of 18 and 2 yards. After Loyalsock recovered an onside kick, which Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet said was not intentional, with a tad over 6 minutes remaining, that prompted the Tigers to have to send out their starting defense after not playing in nearly two hours time. “When a game is in hand, you never want to have to send your starters back in after not being stretched, but we were forced to do so,” Roth said.
The defense did what they did in the first half by holding the Lancers without a first down. Unfortunately, a skirmish took place after the second play leading to ejections on both sides. Loyalsock junior Nick Barone and Southern senior Tim Witcoskie were both tossed from the game meaning they will have to sit out the next game. “It is unfortunate that we had to be put in that situation. I feel bad for Tim being a senior and now not being able to play against our rival Mount Carmel next week,” Gavin Garcia said.
On the other side of the equation, Van Fleet was looking to get his starters more action with it being just their second game of the season because of a shutdown forced by the Coronavirus. The veteran coach didn’t have his starters on the field very long in their opening win at Hughesville last Friday. “Whenever you are going against Southern, you are just happy to get points any way that you can. If you want to build something special, you look forward to games against a team like this who has proven to be the best in the state for many years,” Van Fleet said.
The Tigers put in their second team offense on the next drive with the exception of starting fullback We Barnes who missed the first two games of the season. The sophomore ripped off a 71-yard carry for the final touchdown of the night. “We were motivated to come in and win. We took care of business and got it done in different ways,” said Zeigler. The run gave Barnes over 100 yards joining Gavin Garcia who finished the first half with 244 yards (197 rushing and 47 receiving).
“People say that they aren’t the same team as in the past, but this is Southern Columbia. They’re a state championship team every year and the echoes have seemed to really motivate them,” said Van Fleet. “I respect what they do with their program and they have a tremendous coaching staff that keeps winning.” Loyalsock was scheduled to take on Warrior Run this upcoming Tuesday, but that game has been scratched. The Lancers will next play Bloomsburg on Friday.
Southern will continue their non-traditional schedule on Tuesday. They will travel up Route 54 to take on their rivals in Mount Carmel. “That is always a big game, and just because it is on an odd day this year won’t change the intensity. We have some more to work on with the offensive line, but that will provide us with another test for this new group of guys,” Roth said. The Tigers are looking for their 12th consecutive victory over the Red Tornadoes dating back to their last regular season loss in 2011.
LOYALSOCK (1-1) 0 0 14 6 — 20
SOUTHERN (3-0) 28 16 0 6 — 50
First downs 7 12
Rushes-yards 34-204 37-362
Passing yards 28 47
Total yards 232 409
Passing (C-A-I) 3-12-1 2-2-0
Penalties 5-58 7-65
Fumbles/lost 4-2 1-1
S — Gavin Garcia, 38-yard pass from Liam Klebon (kick missed)
S — Braeden Wisloski, 8-yard run (Colin Sharrow two-point)
S — Braeden Wisloski, 4-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 42-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Braeden Wisloski, 2-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Safety, fumble in end zone (N/A)
S — Gavin Garcia, 78-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
L — Chase Cavanaugh, 9-yard run (Brady Dowell kick)
L — Korie Mayer, 18-yard run (Brady Dowell kick)
L — Korie Mayer, 2-yard run (kick missed)
S — Wes Barnes, 71-yard run (kick blocked)
RUSHING: LOYALSOCK — Chase Cavanaugh 14-107, TD; Korie Mayer 12-89, 2 TD; Nick Barone 4-11; Nate Bauman 1-0; Malachi Coleman 1-0; Naz Smith 1-(-1); Gavin Briggs 1-(-2). SOUTHERN — Gavin Garcia 7-197, 2 TD’s; Wes Barnes 12-108, TD; Braeden Wisloski 5-21, 3 TD’s; Braeden Heim 4-14; Brandon Gedman 2-12; Matt Masala 3-8; Liam Klebon 2-2; Connor Gallagher 2-0.
PASSING: LOYALSOCK — Chase Cavanaugh 3-12-1, 28 yds. SOUTHERN —Liam Klebon 2-2-0, 47 yds, TD.
RECEIVING: LOYALSOCK — Naz Smith 1-11; JerVal Weeks-Shuler 1-10; Brendan Clark 1-7. SOUTHERN —Gavin Garcia 2-47, TD.
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