2017 Class 2A Co-Players of the Year, Julian Fleming and Gaige Garcia, Southern Columbia
Any school in Pennsylvania, and the country for that matter, would love to have either Julian Fleming or Gaige Garcia suiting up for their football team. Having both of them suiting up for the same team is something that every other school in the PIAA is envious about. The Southern Columbia Tigers have the luxury of this duo carrying much of the load for their state championship-winning program. The two of them combined to score 63 offensive touchdowns and also added another couple on special teams for the Class 2A State Champion Tigers. For their hard work and success, the two SCA sophomores have been selected as 2017 EasternPAFootball.Com’s Co-Players of the Year.
Fleming, who has received numerous scholarship offers from schools in the Big 10 and ACC, has already broken every school record for receiving. This season he had 69 receptions for 1,462 yards and scored 20 touchdowns. “I think offensive balance really helped us take pressure off of the run, and I think it made us less predictable. Teams had to plan for more than just a running team, and when our backs are ripping off huge chunks like they did the whole year it really opens up the play-action,” said Fleming. On defense, he had a team-high of four interceptions while matching up against the other teams’ best receiver each week.
Garcia, who was a MaxPreps Freshman All-American last season along with Fleming, doesn’t have the scholarship offers flowing in like his teammate, but it is only a matter of time until his numbers will just be too much for Division 1 programs to ignore. This season, Garcia elevated his already stellar play to a whole new level when the playoffs started. During the post-season alone, he rushed for 1,080 yards and 16 touchdowns. “Going into the playoffs I knew we were going to have to play tough teams so I had to play my best football,” Garcia said. For the season he rushed for 2,292 yards and 37 touchdowns, which accounted for more than one first down per carry at 11.6 yards per attempt. He also caught 31 passes for 446 yards and another six scores.
Through two seasons as a Tiger, Garcia has rushed for 4,230 yards which is already good enough to put him fourth on the school’s all-time list. The Tigers’ all-time leading rusher is former NFL starting fullback Henry Hynoski who finished with 7,165 yards for his career. “Gaige is very determined when he runs the football. He puts in a lot of work in the offseason with lifting and conditioning and is so hard to bring down,” said Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth.
Fleming is on pace to potentially not just break, but shatter the state record for receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in a career. Halfway through his high school career, he currently has 2,418 yards and 33 touchdowns. The state record is 4,529 yards and 54 touchdowns. “He is gifted in all aspects of the receiving game. As a basketball player also, he knows how to get the ball at the highest point. Then when he is in the open field it is very difficult for anyone to tackle him,” Roth said.
With as great a season as each of these gridiron stars had, they acknowledge the fact that they certainly did it as a team. “We beat the teams we did because everyone contributed to the win. Everyone stepped up and the scores on the board showed,” Garcia said. With the Tigers graduating a senior class that finishes with the highest career winning percentage in school history, Southern Columbia will still be the state favorite again heading into next season. “You can’t be too confident, but it would mean a lot going back next year and getting the gold again,” said Fleming. If they are able to win a ninth state championship, it would give them three more than any other program in Pennsylvania history.
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