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Southern Squashes York Catholic

Four Tigers eclipse 100 yards in the win

By: Dave Fegley (11-25-18)

With a history book filled more than a stuffed stomach after Thanksgiving dinner, Southern Columbia found a way to somehow add another record to their already jam-packed legacy. In Saturday’s PIAA Class 2A Quarterfinal win over York Catholic, the Tigers had two sets of duos each go over the century mark for the first time in school history. “I think our offense is clicking on all cylinders right now. We stress in the playoffs is the time when we want to start to peak. I think today was a good example of what we are capable of,” said Southern head coach Jim Roth who is headed to his state-record 18th Eastern Final next Friday in Northern Lehigh. 

In a 56-23 Mercy Rule victory over the Fighting Irish, Julian Fleming and Preston Zachman each went over 100 yards receiving off of throws from Stone Hollenbach. The Garcia brothers, Gaige and Gavin, each ran for over 100 yards as well. Never before in SCA’s 56-year program history have two running backs and two wide receivers each eclipsed 100 yards in the same game. “Sheesh that’s cool. We got things going on offense and they couldn’t find a way to stop us,” said freshman Gavin Garcia.

The first half was when Fleming (146 yards) and Zachman (103 yards) did all of their damage combining for eight catches. “I just try to help the team however I can. Julian gets most of the attention from the opposing defense, so if I am able to make some plays it opens things up more for the team,” Zachman said. Early in the third quarter Gaige (186 yards) and Gavin (106 yards) put an exclamation point on the win to help move the defending state champion Tigers on to another Eastern Final. 

On the first offensive play of the game for the Tigers, Fleming caught a 49-yard pass from Hollenbach to go in front 7-0. York Catholic answered the call on the following possession thanks in part to a long run by Cole Witman who is the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Jon Witman. The run covered 51 yards to set up a 14-yard touchdown catch from Wes Burns to Benjamin Nelson to tie the game. “Unfortunately after that score we didn’t have an answer for Southern Columbia on offense or defense. They are just a different beast that we haven’t ever seen before,” York Catholic coach Eric Depew said.

Fleming put SCA up for good on a 12-yard touchdown reception to make the score 14-7 with 5:16 left in the first quarter. After a Max Tillett fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers looked to go up two scores. Hollenbach was intercepted by Nelson to end the threat. In typical SCA defensive fashion, the Tigers came up with an interception of their own when Burns was intercepted by Zachman later in the quarter. On the next play, Gaige Garcia ran 55 yards to extend the lead to 20-7 before the PAT.

After the touchdown run, the Tigers converted their first 2-point conversion attempt of the season when kicker Ethan Dunkelberger picked up a high snap and flipped it to Gavin Garcia, who juked out five defenders, making the score 22-7 after the first quarter. “It has been real fun playing this year,” said SCA blocking tight end Cam Haladay. “We just try to be physical and go out and hit people to open up lanes for the guys to score.”

The statement drive came on the next series after the Tigers forced a three and out. York Catholic pinned the Tigers inside the ten yard line on a punt, but five plays and 94 yards later SoCo extended their lead to 29-7 early in the second. Gavin Garcia scored on a 21-yard run putting him over 1,000 yards on the season. “This game was a little different in the fact that it was my first state playoff game. However, the goal remains the same to get back to Hershey in two weeks,” Gavin Garcia said. 

The Tigers added two more scores to put the game into the Mercy Rule at the half. Zachman caught a 72-yard touchdown pass to give him his first career 100-yard receiving game. “We have a lot of weapons so I just go out and do my part. The line did a good job of pass blocking too,” Zachman said. Thanks to a Jake Davis interception on the next drive, Gavin Garcia scored just before half from two yards out to make it 42-7. “Cade Linn does a great job as the safety calling out our formations,” said Davis who now has three interceptions on the year. “I saw the guy slow down on his route and then I jumped the route and made the play.”

The Tigers starters played a total of three offensive snaps in the third quarter. The Garcia’s made each one count behind the surge of their offensive line. Gavin carried 61 yards on the first play setting up a two-yard score for his brother Gaige. After a three and out, Gaige gave the Tiger faithful braving the weather another highlight in the pouring rain. He ran 92 yards for a touchdown which was the second longest play in SCA state playoff history. Henry Hynoski has the record with a 95-yarder against Schuylkill Haven in 2005. Gaige Garcia also joined Hynoski by going over 100 rushing touchdowns in his career on his two-yard run.

The Fighting Irish, who won the District III title, decided to keep their starters in against the SCA reserves despite the game being out of reach at 56-7. Using a two quarterback rotation, Mitch Galentine scored on two short runs and added two-point conversion passes on each touchdown. His first one came on a 1-yard run late in the third. Then after an onside kick, he scored early in the fourth on a five yard run. Both two-point conversion passes went to Noah Kiel.

After having a bye last week, York Catholic finishes their best season in school history at 12-1. “We have nothing to be ashamed of. That is the best team in the state that we just played. They can do it all,” Depew said. As for the Tigers, they will take their 14-0 record to next Friday’s Eastern Final against West Catholic. The goal as always for Southern is to finish their season in Hershey. “You take it one game at a time, but playing in the final game is the ultimate goal,” said Roth. “We have a tough task ahead next week against an athletic team.”

Oddly enough, the remaining three teams in the Class 2A field are all teams that the Tigers have played only one time before, but each came over the past three years. West Catholic is who the Tigers beat in the 2015 Eastern Final on the way to a state title. The Western Final will be Steel Valley taking on Wilmington. Steel Valley beat the Tigers in the 2016 State Championship, and the Tigers beat Wilmington in last year’s State Championship.

SCA: 22-20-14-0 = 56
YC: 7-0-8-8 = 23

SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (14-0)
Rushing:
Gaige Garcia 10-186, 2 TD’s; Gavin Garcia 5-106, 2 TD’s; Ty Roadarmel 4-28; Stone Hollenbach 3-13; Braden Heim 6-29; Jayden McCormick 4-4; Brandon Gedman 2-10
Passing:
Stone Hollenbach 8-10-1, 249 yds, 3 TD’s
Receiving:
Julian Fleming 5-146, 2 TD’s; Preston Zachman 3-103, TD
First Downs: 17
Penalties: 5-65

YORK CATHOLIC (12-1)
Rushing:
Mitch Galentine 14-67, 2 TDs; Massimo Antolick 9-3; Cole Witman 6-53; Wes Burns 2-24; Andrew Adams 1-8
Passing:
Wes Burns 2-11-2, 16 yds, TD; Mitch Galentine 4-8-0, 68 yds
Receiving:
Benjamin Nelson 1-14, TD; Manuel Montes 2-11; Cormac Sterling 1-35; Noah Kiel 2-24
First Downs: 13
Penalties: 1-5

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