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Written by: Dave Fegley on Saturday, October 5th, 2019
By: Dave Fegley (10-5-19)
In a matchup between two defending District IV and PHAC champions, it was Jersey Shore’s turn to take a beating from Southern Columbia. “We knew coming into the game that this would be one of the better teams on our schedule,” said SCA’s leader Jim Roth. “It benefits our starters to get more competition because they haven’t had to face much of a challenge since early on in the year,” said the 36-year head coach.
Jersey Shore is the defending District IV 4A champions and defending champions in the PHAC’s Division 1. “They should be the front-runners again this season. They have a nice passing game and that will be beneficial come playoff time,” Roth said. Even so, they weren’t in the same universe as their opponent. As Southern Columbia has done to everyone this year, in the opening half, they showed why they are on a planet of their own. The Tigers offense moved up and down the field with ease, and the defense held the Bulldogs to a dismal negative-57 yards rushing.
The Tigers jumped out to a 35-0 lead after the first quarter and went on to Mercy Rule the Bulldogs 56-14. About the only way to knit pick the defending PIAA champions is to call out their starting defense for giving up a touchdown. “We just have to move on from it. It was nice to shutout everyone coming in but giving up one touchdown isn’t going to make a difference,” said Tiger leading tackler Max Tillett. Southern’s stout starting defense came in with not surrendering a point to any of its first six opponent.
On the opening kickoff, Gaige Garcia and Julian Fleming were given a rare opportunity. For just the second time this year, the state record breaking duo was given the opportunity to return a kickoff. When you barely get to play until halftime and the defense is holding teams under three points per game, you take every chance that you can get. Garcia returned the opening kickoff 81 yards with Fleming, who hasn’t had the chance to return a kickoff yet in 2019, blocking out in front of him.
The score was taken off of the board due to a questionable holding call, but it was a preliminary sight of what the Bulldogs had coming for them. Three plays after the penalty, the Tigers put the opening touchdown on the board when senior quarterback Preston Zachman kept the ball on a designed run. The Wisconsin-commit ran it in from 53 yards out while delivering a stiff-arm that Badger great Ron Dayne would all have approved of.
After the Tigers defense forced their typical three and out, things continued to get worse for the Bulldogs. Cam Allison dropped the snap on a punt attempt, and Southern’s Tyler Walkman buried him before he could get a foot on the ball. The very next play, Zachman threw a jump ball that Fleming came down with from 21 yards out to put SCA up 14-0 with 9:09 left in the first quarter. That touchdown reception moved Fleming ahead of NFL-star A.J. Green to 16th all-time in United States history for career touchdowns.
Southern’s defense forced another three and out thanks to sacks by Waltman and Cal Haladay. Two plays later, Gavin Garcia outran the defense for 49 yards and put the Tigers up 21-0 with still more than a half of the first quarter to play. “We just tried to keep a balance between the run and the pass in the first half. I thought we played well considering the field conditions weren’t the best,” Gavin said. His older brother Gaige scored the final two touchdowns of the opening quarter on a 78-yard run and a 48-yard catch making the Tiger lead 35-0.
On Gaige Garcia’s rushing touchdown, he became just the 13th player in the history of Pennsylvania to rush for 7,000 yards. He joins Henry Hynoski and Jerry Marks as the third Tiger to reach the feat as no other school in Pennsylvania has more than one player on the list. “Obviously you see it each week how powerful of a runner Gaige is. On that touchdown catch he had, the ref could have called a face mask on the defender when he caught it, but he is so strong that he just kind of threw the guy off of him to the ground,” said Roth.
In the second quarter, Southern’s first two offensive plays both went for touchdowns. The first one was a 46-yard run up the gut by fullback Ty Roadarmel. The next was a 58-yard receiving touchdown by Fleming. Zachman hit Fleming on a simple quick pass and then the state’s all-time leader in receiving TD’s and yards did the rest as he made the Bulldogs defense look like human traffic cones, weaving in and out of tackle attempts for the 64th of his career. After Ethan Haupt connected on his seventh extra point, the road team led 49-0.
Give Jersey Shore credit though as the Bulldogs didn’t give up. For their effort they were able to do something about as rare as Democrats and Republicans getting along on political issues. Quarterback Tanner Lorson, who looked impressive throwin on the run, put together an eight play drive that was finished off with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Shaffer. Although the score with 4:28 remaining in the half didn’t come close to affecting the outcome of the game, it was significant in the fact that it was remarkably the first points given up by the Tigers first team defense all year. Throughout the game, the senior spread the ball around to eight different receivers.
Gavin Garcia scored on a six yard plunge with just over a minute left in the half to extend SCA’s lead to 56-6. The trio of backs for the Tigers continued to raise their yards per carry average in this one. Gaige Garcia finished the half with six carries for 126 yards, Gavin Garcia had six attempts for 101 yards, and Roadarmel picked up 54 yards on just three attempts. With each of them averaging well over a first down per carry, they now have combined 1,866 yards on just 122 carries. If you have access to a calculator, that comes to 15.3 yards per clip which is difficult to even do on a video game.
With the Tiger starters on the sidelines, bundled up in jackets for the first game in fall temperatures, the backups got to play the entire second half. The Bulldogs kept their starters in hoping to score again for their home crowd, and that also provided the visiting team with valuable time to get quality reps against an above average opponent. “I was pleased with the performance of our backups in the second half. They went toe-to-toe against Jersey Shore’s starters and that provided our younger guys with good reps,” said Roth.
Neither team came close to scoring in the third quarter. Early on in the fourth quarter, Lorson threw a short three yard pass, again to Shaffer, for a touchdown. Stanton Westlin then converted a two-point conversion pass making the final score 56-14. “The last two weeks our backups have had good competition. Both South Williamsport and Jersey Shore kept their starters in for the whole game,” said SCA senior Cole Shankweiler. “That helped our younger guys see what it takes because they were pretty much even with them in the second half of both games,” said the starting defensive tackle.
Lorson threw a season-high 44 times Friday which was almost as many times as the Tigers have thrown all season coming in. The Bulldogs didn’t have much of a choice though as 14 of the their 16 rushing attempts went for negative yardage. “It benefitted our secondary seeing that many passing attempts. Going forward that will help us when we see teams that throw the ball more often than they run,” Tillett said after the win at Thompson Street Stadium.
Jersey Shore will travel to Lewisburg to take on the Green Dragons at Bucknell University next week. For as ridiculous as it sounds, the Tigers still don’t have a clue on who they will play next week. Originally, Southern Columbia was supposed to host a one-win Shikellamy squad. Wyoming Area, who is undefeated and highly ranked in Class 4A, had a meeting set with winless Holy Redeemer. For better competition, the teams agreed to swap opponents. “Shikellamy won’t be a threat, so we will prepare like we are playing Wyoming Area and then go from there,” said Shankweiler.
A month ago when the game was scheduled, it seemed to be a no-brainer. Two undefeated teams matched up and two struggling teams able to play in the other game. The PIAA, District 2, and District 4 were all on board. Three weeks after the game change, a handful of schools throughout the PHAC complained about the game change saying it wasn’t approved by the conference first. Why it took nearly a month for them to voice their gripe makes their case sound even less logical.
After pushing back a final decision, now three times, the Heartland Conference’s general assembly is scheduled to meet 9:00 on Monday morning to finally make a decision. With the issue at hand regarding one of the bylaws, each school will have the opportunity to cast a vote on whether or not the schedule change should be allowed. This would be Southern’s third schedule change on the season as the Tigers have tried to make their schedule as tough as possible.
In their opener, they traveled to South Carolina and Mercy Ruled the best private school in the state on their home turf in place of taking on a young Bloomsburg team. In two weeks, the Tigers will now play undefeated Montoursville rather than winless Hughesville. Neither of those games were even questioned and SCA even graciously gave up their right to win another PHAC title even though the Tigers have Mercy Ruled each team in the division.
So at this point, everyone will wait for Monday’s decision by the PHAC. “We are preparing to play Wyoming Area. Wyoming Area is planning to play us. If we don’t get the approval then we at least each will still have a game next Friday,” said Roth. At this rate, it would be fitting for the PHAC to wait and make their final decision Friday morning as they are already holding four teams, booster clubs, and Berwick’s Crispin Field (the site of Shikellamy vs Holy Redeemer) hostage.
SCA: 35-21-0-0 = 56
JS: 0-6-0-8 = 14
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (7-0)
Gaige Garcia 6-126, TD; Gavin Garcia 6-101, 2 TD’s; Ty Roadarmel 3-54, TD; Preston Zachman 1-53, TD; Braden Heim 6-12; Wes Barnes 5-33; Matt Masala 4-28; Trevor Yorks 3-1
Preston Zachman 6-11-1, 174 yds, 3 TD’s
Julian Fleming 5-126, 2 TD’s; Gaige Garcia 1-48, TD
First Downs: 19
JERSEY SHORE (4-3)
Josh Malicky 6-(-19); Tanner Lorson 6-(-21); Owen Anderson 2-(-17); Dawson Sechrist 1-0
Tanner Lorson 28-44-2, 287 yds, 2 TD’s
Anthony Shaffer 8-70, 2 TD’s; Cayden Hess 8-66; Stanton Westlin 4-96; Owen Anderson 3-18; Josh Malicky 2-16; Dawson Sechrist 1-10; Kooper Peacock 1-10; Brett Guthrie 1-1
First Downs: 13
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