Sixty Straight For Southern
Tigers defense too much for Blue Jays
A lot has taken place since the last time Central Columbia has beaten Southern Columbia in football. Bill Clinton was just starting his second term in office as the POTUS, the first iPhone was still a decade away from being released, the Twin Towers were still standing in NYC, Seinfeld was still airing new episodes, and the Houston Texans weren’t even an NFL franchise yet. Oh, and nobody on either the Tigers or Blue Jays roster was born yet. All of those facts are still the same after SCA’s 42-0 Mercy Rule victory on the road in Blue Jay Stadium. “Central is having a successful season. This was just their second loss, but our guys came out and took care of business from the start on both sides of the ball. Once again I was real pleased with the play of our defense,” said Tiger coach Jim Roth.
Central is the only school that Southern has played for every single season since the Tigers program came into existence 55 years ago. Now, the Tigers have won 20 straight in the rivalry. Even more impressive, this victory moved SCA’s regular season winning streak to 60 consecutive victories dating back to 2011. “We just try to come out and dominate each week. The mentality remains the same. We practice hard, watch film, and come out to try and execute the game plan,” Southern senior running back Tristan Heim said.
The Tigers (9-0) proved from the beginning of the game that they were simply on another level than the Blue Jays (7-2). Some people thought a few weeks ago that Central may have a fighter’s chance of staying competitive throughout the game, but the Tigers put that theory to rest from the game’s opening series. Southern scored two touchdowns in each of the first three quarters and Central’s offense couldn’t get anything going against the Tigers stingy defense. The Blue Jays finished the game with less than 100 yards of total offense.
Central, who celebrated their senior night before kickoff, was forced into a three-and-out on their first drive thanks to a sack by Tiger linebacker Anthony Scicchitano. SCA’s offense put together a six-play drive that finished with Gaige Garcia, who is second in the area for rushing yards, scoring on a four yard run. After another three-and-out, Garcia scored on a carry of eight yards to make the score 14-0 after the first quarter. “I knew coming in that Central’s running back was leading the area in rushing, so I wanted to use that as some motivation to help drive me. It’s good to have that kind of competition to motivate you,” Garcia said after the win.
Central’s rushing leader is Issac Gensemer, who was about 100 yards ahead of Garcia on the season heading into the matchup. However, Garcia has been much more productive in terms of yards per carry, and that is not taking anything away from Gensemer who has been the leader of the Blue Jays all year. “We have a variety of different playmakers on this team, so our guys may not get as many opportunities as the featured players on other teams. We like to keep things balanced out to keep the other teams guessing,” said Roth. Garcia averages twice as many yards per carry at a staggering 14.2 yards compared to Gensemer’s 7.1 per clip.
The Tigers defense came up with another three-and-out to start the second quarter which was set up by a sack from Lear Quinton. Garcia scored his third touchdown of the evening on a 22-yard pass from Stone Hollenbach. After another forced punt, SCA would score again. This time it was Julian Fleming doing the majority of the work. He caught a first down pass that deflected straight into the air off a Blue Jay’s helmet, that appeared to be nearly intercepted, to start the drive. Hollenbach then threw a jump ball to him that he jumped over two defenders to bring down to move the chains. Fleming would then score on a diving 38-yard sensational touchdown grab from Hollenbach that came on a 4th-and-20 to make the score 28-0.
Fleming and Garcia, who are both just sophomores coming off of all-state freshmen seasons, are headed to Notre Dame this weekend on official recruiting visits to watch the Fighting Irish take on the USC Trojans. “It’s going to be exciting. This is a big step for me just to get an invite to a major D1 program like this. Julian has obviously gotten a lot of high level offers already, so I’m excited to go on my first visit,” said Garcia who went over 1,000 yards rushing on the season. He is also now just the second Tiger to ever rush for more than 1,000 yards in both his freshman and sophomore campaigns. Jerry Marks is the other Tiger to accomplish that feat.
Central’s best drive of the game came just before halftime as they attempted a 33-yard field goal on the final play of the half. Quinton however ruined that scoring chance by blocking the kick to give the Tigers even more momentum as they ran into the locker room up 28-0. “I just shot through an open gap. I felt somebody try to block me from the side, but I was able to get a piece of the ball with part of my arm,” Quinton said.
The Tigers defense held the Blue Jays to just that one drive crossing midfield in the first half. “We knew that their quarterback liked to get outside to extend plays, so we made sure to try and contain him. They had a good running game coming in, so we wanted to shut that down and limit any big play opportunity that they could have potentially had,” said Quinton. With the way the defense has played this year, Southern has now won all but one of their games in Mercy Rule fashion.
Garcia score his fourth touchdown, a five yard run, with 10:23 left in the third quarter to put the game officially into the Mercy Rule at 35-0. “We were expecting them to change their fronts on defense and we made some minor adjustments at halftime to account for it. It’s all about doing your job and they had some good players upfront that we had to block,” said Tiger lineman John Stabinski. The final touchdown, to make the score 42-0 after Elijah Hoffman’s final PAT, came on an eight yard run compliments of Heim. “Blocking is important because obviously teams focus on Gaige, so I try to do my best with blocking as do the other backs. Then when I get a carry I just try to run hard and follow the holes that the linemen work to make,” Heim said.
Southern will face their toughest test of the regular season in the finale next week as they will face off against Selinsgrove and their prolific passing attack. “With how well our defense has played this year, it allows our offense to get great field position. We prepare each week and make adjustments if we need to. We want to go out and have success each play,” said Stabinski. The Tigers starting defense has dominated all year by allowing just three total touchdowns all season long. The Seals will come in with just one loss on the year. If the Tigers win, they will be guaranteed the top seed in Class AA for districts. Central will take on their arch rival in Bloomsburg with both teams fighting for higher playoff seeding as well.
SCA: 14-14-14-0 = 42
CC: 0-0-0-0 = 0
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (9-0)
Gaige Garcia 14-82, 3 TD’s; Jeffrey Cox 5-55; Tristan Heim 3-15; TD; Stone Hollenbach 4-22; Ty Roadarmel 2-10; Payton Pursel 2-7; Nate Crowl 2-6; Cade Linn 1-4
Stone Hollenbach 11-14-0, 157 yds, 2 TD’s
Julian Fleming 6-109, TD; Gaige Garcia 4-36, TD; Anthony Scicchitano 1-12
1st DOWNS: 20
CENTRAL COLUMBIA (7-2)
Isaac Gensemer 10-27; Jack Schechterly 3-15; Ky Seesholtz 2-8; Blaise Williams 1-1; Troy Johnson 1-0; Trae Devlin 3-(-7); Cole Sweitzer 2-(-8)
Trae Devlin 4-13-0, 41 yds; Dylan Harris 1-4-0, 5 yds
Zander Bradley 3-29; Jared Verse 1-12; Cole Sweitzer 1-5.
1st DOWNS: 7
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