Tigers Score Trophy Buck
Southern Columbia wins yet another Eastern Championship
The first week of deer season didn’t end well for the Bucks, but then again the ending hasn’t been good for anybody that has faced off against the Tigers all season. “Our guys came out and took care of business against a quality football team with a deep tradition. The players are happy, but not satisfied because the ultimate goal is winning in week sixteen,” said Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth. His Tigers added to their already state-record by winning a remarkable 16th Eastern Championship, and SCA will take on Wilmington next Friday for the PIAA Class 2A State Championship.
The game between the Tigers and Bucks marked the first time in United States history that two football coaches competed with each having more than 400 career victories. Jack Henzes, in his 51st season, has won 435 games. Jim Roth, in his 34th year, has 411 victories. The two are the winningest active coaches in the state and trail the late George Curry (455 wins) for the most in state history. If things continue on the path that they are going, Roth should be able to shatter the record.
Dunmore couldn’t have dreamt of a better start to the game and their legendary coach Jack Henzes was confident at the time. “Our guys came out with a lot of energy and were able to make those big plays on both offense and defense early,” Henzes said. On the Tigers first play from scrimmage, quarterback Stone Hollenbach fumbled and it was recovered at the 15-yard line by Michael Muracco of Dunmore. The next play, Gavin Darcy threw a touchdown pass to Steve Borgia to put the Bucks up 6-0 just 17 seconds into the game after a blocked extra point.
Southern answered back with a 20-yard run by Hollenbach to put the Tigers in front 7-6. Then, on the next possession, Dunmore retook the lead when Billy Donvito scored on a 16-yard run that he broke a handful of tackle attempts on to go up 13-7. From that point forward, Southern took care of business and left no doubt. “We have leaders on this team that all find ways to contribute. The seniors try to set good examples and our underclassmen have confidence. Even though we fell behind early, it was still our game,” said SCA lineman Connor Fulmer.
With Penn State coach James Franklin in attendance on the Southern Columbia sideline, his top recruiting target, Julian Fleming, made a big play to set up a Tigers go-ahead touchdown that they wouldn’t relinquish. “Knowing he was there was a little added motivation to show him what I have to offer, but in the end I just tried approaching it like any other game,” Fleming said after another 100+ yard receiving performance. The sophomore star pulled in a 46-yard pass between two defenders and broke free to the 7-yard line. On the next play the other sophomore star for the Tigers, Gaige Garcia, finished off the job with a touchdown run. From that point forward it was all Tigers.
After Elijah Hoffman’s extra point, Southern took a 14-13 lead. The PAT set a new Tigers record for the most extra points ever by a SCA kicker in a season. The previous mark was 91 set by Tyler Keiser in 2015. Hoffman now has 98 extra points. Tack on his 11 field goals, and his 131 points are the most in a season ever by any kicker in Pennsylvania history. “He’s a great weapon for us and he has been dependable all season long,” said Roth.
After the Tigers defense forced a 3-and-out, the offense went right back to work. Ty Roadarmel, who got his first career start because of an injury to Tristan Heim, sparked the drive with a 36-yard run and then Fleming caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Hollenbach to make the score 21-13 at the end of the first quarter. Those 21 points that the Tigers scored were more points than Dunmore had given up in any game all season. “We knew coming in that Dunmore had only given up about a touchdown on average each game. For us to score more points in one quarter than any other team did all year against them in an entire game was impressive,” said Roadarmel.
After another stop by the the Tigers defense, Jeff Cox scored on the next drive to make the score 28-13 after a 22-yard run. “Our offensive line had a little trouble early on, but as the game wore on they just got better. We have guys that open up running lanes and they do what they need to do in order to help us win,” Cox said. On the next drive, the Tigers got a turnover from their defense. Blake Day intercepted a Darcy pass, and from that point forward Garcia put on a show.
He scored on the next play on a 39-yard run to make the score 35-13. The carry also put Garcia over the 2,000 yard rushing mark on the season. “Gaige is a powerful runner and is very tough to bring down. You need to make a good play to bring him down one-on-one and that doesn’t happen too often,” said Fulmer. The Tigers defense didn’t allow the Bucks to pick up a first down in the second quarter, and they only gained nine yards total. With a three touchdown lead, SCA went into the locker room with all of the momentum.
Garcia added two long touchdowns to start the second half to put the game into the Mercy Rule at 49-13. “We are on a mission right now and the whole team is coming together to make it happen. After halftime, we wanted to put the game away and we did just that,” Garcia said. His first one came on a 73-yard run when he got a pancake block by lineman Andrew Bell. The next one, a 60-yard run, put him over 4,000 yards rushing for his career. The sophomore became the 5th Tiger to ever reach that milestone. “It’s great to see Gaige playing his best football right now. He is really a heckuva football player and showed why in this game,” Roth said.
In the final quarter each team added a touchdown. Roadarmel scored on a five yard run for Southern. Frank Damiano broke off a 64-yard run for the Bucks when the starting fullback took advantage of the Tigers playing with their backups. The SoCo defense deserved rest and it was given to the starters after they completely shut down the Bucks offensive from the midway point of the opening quarter until they were taken out to a standing ovation from the crowd. “They picked up some early momentum, but then we started to make some plays. I felt that our defense played a good game when taking away the opening couple of minutes,” Max Tillett said after the Tigers 56-19 victory. “As the game wore on, I felt we just kept getting better and started to wear them down,” said the sophomore linebacker.
The 56 points that Southern scored gives them 767 for the season, breaking the old school mark of 755 set in 2006. To make the offensive performance sound even more impressive, take the fact that the Bucks only gave up a total of 91-points in 14 games entering Friday’s showdown. Then the Tigers came along and scored more than half of that in basically two quarters of work. “Their talent just took over and they are a complete football team. They are great in every phase of the game and we hope they win the state championship next week and bring it back to the east,” said Henzes.
Dunmore ends their outstanding season at 14-1 as the District 2 and Lackawanna League champions. “I’m proud of what this senior class has accomplished. They won the district title every year that they played and made Dunmore proud. Unfortunately, we just ran into a better football team in the Tigers,” Henzes said. Southern Columbia moves to 15-0 and will take on Wilmington for a State Championship. They outlasted Washington in the Western Championship by a high-score affair of 49-42. The game will be played at 1:00 on Friday at Hershey Park Stadium.
The Grey Hounds are looking to win the school’s second state championship. The Tigers on the other hand are looking to add an eighth golden trophy to their display case. No other school in PA has ever won more than six besides the Tigers. Southern Columbia is making their third straight trip to the state final, winning in 2015, and they are on a mission after last year’s lopsided result. “The motivation I have to win this game is indescribable. Last year at this time I knew my season was over, but this year we have one goal and that’s to get our fingers measured after next Friday,” said Garcia who missed the finale last year due to an injury suffered the week prior. The Tigers lost to Steel Valley, but this year something just seems different…and it has that golden feel to it.
SCA: 21-14-14-7 = 56
DUN: 13-0-0-6 = 19
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (15-0)
Gaige Garcia 11-234, 4 TD’s; Ty Roadarmel 7-78, TD; Jeffrey Cox 8-64, TD; Stone Hollenbach 2-30, TD; Nate Crowl 2-22; Cade Linn 2-8; Wade Kerstetter 2-1
Stone Hollenbach 8-13-0, 130 yds, TD
Julian Fleming 5-106, TD; Anthony Scicchitano 1-14; Preston Zachman 1-8; Gaige Garcia 1-2
1st DOWNS: 20
Frank Damiano 6-76, TD; Billy Donvito 13-45, TD; Cristian Buckley 6-12; Gavin Darcy 1-3; Sean Pietruszkiewicz 1-1; Alex Reese 1-1
Gavin Darcy 3-12-1, 52 yds, TD
Steve Borgia 2-25, TD; Frank Damiano 1-27
1st DOWNS: 6
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