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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, September 26th, 2020
Southern Columbia has proven to be nearly impossible to beat even when the opposition plays as close to flawless as possible. When a Tiger opponent makes mistakes, it turns out to be a night to forget for the adversary. The three-time defending PIAA champions used had a kick return, fumble return, and an interception return for touchdowns to leave no doubt in the first half. A blocked punt set up an additional score as well.
The Tigers won their 50th straight game overall on Friday becoming just the fourth program ever to reach a streak of that length in Pennsylvania. They are joined by Clairton, Central Bucks West, and Bishop Guilfoyle as the only programs across the commonwealth to make this kind of run. The 67-0 win at Warrior Run was also the 83rd consecutive regular season victory, dating back to 2011, adding to their state record which they broke last season.
Winning in just about any possible fashion has been Southern’s DNA during their run, and they added another strand to that during the road shutout. The offense didn’t touch the ball until they were up 14-0 thanks to exceptional plays made by their special teams and defensive.
Braeden Wisloski returned the opening kickoff 81 yards giving the Tigers literally the game-winning touchdown just nine seconds into the game. “I thought the ball was going to roll out of bounds at first. It kind of stopped then, so I picked it up and took it to the other side of the field which became wide open,” said the Tiger sophomore. Wisloski had a return called back in SCA’s opener last week due to a penalty.
On Warrior Run’s first series of offense, a third down handoff to Justin Blair didn’t end well. As the senior was trying to fight forward, SCA senior linebacker Wade Kerstetter ripped the ball out of his hands and raced the other way for a 42-yard fumble return touchdown making the score 14-0. “It’s an added boost to our team when we can find ways to score other than offense,” Kerstetter said. “We know that our offense can put points on the board, so this is just a bonus.”
Gavin Garcia was next on the list to scorch Warrior Run. The Southern junior made the counterpart look like their nickname was a fraudulent one. Garcia’s first three carries against the Defenders all resulted in touchdowns. In fact, he didn’t allow a defender to lay a hand on him on his runs of 9, 12, and 76 yards respectively to push the lead to 35-0.
Less than a minute later, Jake Davis added another defensive touchdown for the visitors. The Tiger senior, who had two receiving touchdowns in last week’s opener, intercepted Nathan Michael’s pass and returned it 44 yards for a score. “You can’t ask much more in terms of getting contributions all over the field. I was obviously happy with the way we looked in all three areas of the game,” said SCA head coach Jim Roth.
Braden Heim scored the final touchdown of the first half on a 1-yard plunge with 4:29 left making the score 49-0. The senior set up Garcia’s first touchdown as well by blocking a punt. “I think a lot of people had some doubts about how we would do this season based off all the talent we lost from last year,” said Heim. “Everyone is working really hard and we are just doing what we can to keep this great legacy going.”
Southern’s defense was once again dominant. In addition to the two defensive touchdowns in the first half, they held the Defenders to negative-13 yards rushing and without a completion while the starters were in. “We want to continue to show everyone that we aren’t just made up of a few good players. We want to prove that we are once again a great team,” Heim said.
The only thing that didn’t go in favor of the Tigers, and nobody will pity them for it, was the lack of opportunities that they had to throw the football. “We need to get more in sync throwing the football with the new guys. I tried to come out tonight and put a little more emphasis on throwing the ball, but we didn’t have the chance with how quickly things got out of hand on the scoreboard,” said Roth.
Liam Klebon got the start and then Greyson Shaud took the second series. It was the reverse of what Roth went with last week. “I hate having to play two quarterbacks, but that is where things currently stand. They have been very close with their play, and we have guys who have stepped in as receivers to hopefully make it work,” Roth said. Through the first two weeks, the Tigers have less than 100 yards passing in total for the first time in over a decade in large part due to the lopsided scores in favor of the 10-time PIAA champs.
In the second half the Tigers were able to give their reserves two full quarters of varsity action which has been something that has kept the tradition strong throughout the duration of Roth’s career. The starters are glad to see their teammates, who they battle with all week in practice, get an opportunity on Friday nights. “We are having a lot fun so far. Getting everyone a chance to play is great for everyone’s experience,” said Wisloski.
The trio of junior running backs Connor Gallagher (8 yards), Matt Masala (38 yards), and Trevor Yorks (6 yards) each found the end zone in the final quarter of the game in Turbotville. The Tigers didn’t attempt a PAT on any of their second half touchdowns making the final score 67-0.
Isaac Carter kicked the Tigers first five extra points, and then Klebon kicked the final two before SCA took knees after their final three touchdowns. The primary kicker Carter is also a member of the SCA soccer team, and with the unique upcoming schedule, a backup plan is potentially needed. Southern’s next two football games will be played on Thursday and the following Tuesday which could interfere with other sports in play.
Warrior Run will try to pick up their first win on the year next Friday when they travel to Bloomsburg. Southern’s Thursday night game will be at Tiger Stadium against Loyalsock, and then they will travel to Mount Carmel five days later for the rare Tuesday clash against their rival. “We just need to stay sharp at practice and continue to take care of business in the games. Our team’s focus will be the key with this schedule coming up,” Kerstetter said.
WARRIOR RUN (0-3) 0 0 0 0 — 0
SOUTHERN (2-0) 28 21 0 18 — 67
First downs 4 13
Rushes-yards 32-13 24-313
Passing yards 14 26
Total yards 27 339
Passing (C-A-I) 1-9-1 2-5-0
Penalties 0-0 4-30
Fumbles/lost 5-3 0-0
S — Braeden Wisloski, 81-yard kick return (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Wade Kerstetter, 42-yard fumble return (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 9-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 12yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Gavin Garcia, 76-yard run (Isaac Carter kick)
S — Jake Davis, 44-yard interception return (Liam Klebon kick)
S — Braden Heim, 1-yard run (Liam Klebon kick)
S — Connor Gallagher, 8-yard run (no attempt)
S — Matt Masala, 38-yard run (no attempt)
S — Trevor Yorks, 6-yard run (no attempt)
RUSHING: WARRIOR RUN — Dominic Buss 2-17; Tom Royles 2-4; Tanner Confair 1-3; Roman Pierce 3-1; Ryan Newton 2-0; Logan Smedley 2-(-1); Derek Thomas 2-(-1); Nathan Michael 6-(-3); Justin Blair 12-(-7). SOUTHERN — Gavin Garcia 5-133, 3 TD’s; Trevor Yorks 7-67, TD; Braden Heim 4-31, TD; Matt Masala 2-48, TD; Braeden Wisloski 2-24; Connor Gallagher 3-9, TD; Tyler Arnold 1-1.
PASSING: WARRIOR RUN — Nathan Michael 0-5-1; Ryan Newton 1-4-0, 14 yds. SOUTHERN — Greyson Shaud 1-2-0, 22 yds; Liam Klebon 1-3-0, 4 yds.
RECEIVING: WARRIOR RUN — Dominick Shuey 1-14. SOUTHERN — Jake Rose 1-22; Gavin Garcia 1-4.
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