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Garrett Garcia leads Southern Columbia to District 4 Title

Written by: on Saturday, November 18th, 2023. Follow Matt Beltz on Twitter.


TROY – Not many teams have the speed to match up with Southern Columbia.

Heading into Friday’s District 4 2A championship game, Troy believed it had just that, and the Trojans had the numbers and the film to back that up.

Unfortunately, Troy was never able to show it. A steady rain and muddy field conditions that worsened as the game went on largely neutralized the speed of both teams and sure enough, the game was absent of the big plays that both teams had plenty of in their first 12 games this year.

Instead, after a scoreless first half that was as even of a stalemate as a stalemate can be, Southern used its strength on the ground to gradually wear down Troy in the second half as the Tigers put together a pair of sustained drives that together chewed up over half of the clock in the second half. Both drives ended with touchdown runs by Garrett Garcia, who ran for 136 yards on 22 carries, and those scores along with another tremendous performance by the stout Southern defense sent the Tigers to their ninth straight district championship, and the program’s 31st overall, with a hard-fought 14-0 win over the top-seeded and previously unbeaten Trojans.

“We knew it was going to be a battle. They had an outstanding team, they looked at it as the biggest game in the history of their program and we knew we were going to have our hands full up here,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. “It’s definitely one of our biggest wins in the district playoffs. The thing we hang our hat on is consistency, and they were a group that built up to this over a three-year period, so when you can come in and knock a team like that off, you’re playing more than an outstanding team – you’re also playing a real strong attitude and a team that’s highly motivated, so it was a big win for a number of reasons.”

I think we could have played this game five times and had different results every time. This game was more conducive to them with the rain and the muck and the Wing T,” said Troy coach Jim Smith. “We are a really fast team, faster than they were I feel, that was nullified by the conditions. We both had to play on it, but it really hindered about two-thirds of our offense, and struggled with some snaps. On a dry field, I think we would have had an advantage, but on a wet field, they had an advantage. It was a hard-fought game on both sides, but no excuses and we’ll get right back after it and see what we can do next year.”

The win also marks the 38th consecutive postseason win for the Southern juggernaut, which last lost a postseason contest in the 2016 Class 2A state championship game. Like many of those previous 37 wins, another standout defensive performance led the way.

After giving up 105 yards to Troy in the first half, in which the Trojans converted on 4-of-7 third downs to extend drives and keep the Tigers on their half of the field for most of the half, Southern held Troy to just a single offensive yard in the second half, as the Trojans managed to run just 13 offensive plays. The Tigers also picked off the Trojans twice in the second half, although neither turnover directly led to either of Southern’s touchdowns.

Of Troy’s 105 yards in the first half, 81 came through the air, as the Trojans had some success throwing the ball, but got very few yards after the catch. On the ground, however, it was tough sledding against Southern’s stout defense, as Troy managed just 20 rushing yards on 19 carries on the evening.

“I can’t say enough about our defense. It’s been outstanding all year and it was again tonight,” said Roth. “As we’re struggling to move the ball and we’re in a 0-0 game at halftime, our defense played strong the whole game and that was a huge key.”

As the game wore on and the field conditions worsened with the continued rain, it became tougher to throw the ball, and with Southern running 41 plays in the second half, Troy was unable to convert on the few opportunities it had on offense in the second half.

“They made some plays where we didn’t, but I’m proud of the kids, who worked hard,” said Smith. “Southern’s going to go on to represent District 4 like they do every year, and probably give themselves a real shot at another state title. To be able to play with a team like that, we know we’re close and where we are, and we’re still a very young team and we’ll be back hopefully in this game next year.”

It looked as though Troy may have broken serve to open the second half, as one of the up-men on the kickoff return, Jayden Kutt, took the second-half kickoff 36 yards back to the Southern 44, where the kicker Isaac Carter just managed to tackle him by inches to save the potential touchdown.

The Tigers then picked off Troy quarterback Evan Woodward, as Louden Murphy stepped in front of the Troy receiver and recorded the interception at the Southern 21 on Troy’s first play from scrimmage of the half.

Southern lost a fumble at the Troy 30 on its subsequent drive, but the Tigers’ defense forced the Trojans into a three-and-out, giving them the ball back at their own 44 following a shanked punt that went just 22 yards.

From there, the Tiger offense began to slowly wear down the Trojans. After the Tigers put up 108 yards of offense in the first half, but only managed seven first downs and didn’t advance the ball past the Troy 38-yard line, Southern put together a 12-play, 56-yard drive that took nearly half of the third quarter – 5:49 – and was capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by Garcia with :41 left in the quarter. A key to that drive was a 13-yard completion on a screen pass from Blake Wise to Murphy on a fourth-and-3 from the Troy 36. That was the only time Southern threw the ball in the second half after Wise completed just a single pass on six attempts in the first half.

“Their secondary was one of the reasons we had trouble converting and continuing some drives in the first half,” said Roth.

After another three-and-out by Troy and another relatively short punt of just 27 yards, the Tigers took over this time at their own 41. Once again, it took them 12 plays to go 59 yards and all on running plays this time, and it took over half of the fourth quarter – 6:13 – with Garcia again capping the drive with a 1-yard run.

Garcia’s second touchdown essentially put the game away, with the Tigers’ defense forcing another three-and-out and then sealing it later when Gavin Krebs picked off Woodward with a minute to go.

With the win, the Tigers will continue the pursuit of their record seventh consecutive state title when they face the winner of Saturday’s District 6 championship game between Richland and Bald Eagle next weekend.


Southern Columbia 14, Troy 0

Southern Columbia (12-1)    0  0  7  7 – 14

Troy (12-1)                            0  0  0  0 –  0

Third quarter 

:41 – (SC) Garrett Garcia 5-yard run (Carter kick), 12-56, 5:49


Fourth quarter

5:32 – (SC) Garrett Garcia 1-yard run (Carter kick), 12-59, 6:13

                                                       SC                          T
First downs                                    19                             6

Rushes-net yards                       62-281                     19-20

Passing yardage                           12                             86

Passing                                      2-7-0-1                    8-21-0-2

Fumbles-lost                                1-1                            3-0

Penalties-yards                           5-45                          3-20

RUSHING: Southern Columbia: Garrett Garcia (22-136-2), Louden Murphy (21-75), Carter Madden (15-68), Blake Wise (2-4), TEAM (1-(-2)); Troy: Clayton Smith (6-7), Evan Woodward (6-0), Mason Smith (4-4), Kael Millard (2-5), Brendan Gilliland (1-4)

PASSING: Southern Columbia: Blake Wise (2-7-12-0-1); Troy: Evan Woodward (8-21-86-0-2)

RECEIVING: Southern Columbia: Louden Murphy (1-13), Carter Madden (1-(-1); Troy: Lincoln Chimics (3-33), Mason Smith (2-17), Brendan Gilliland (2-13), Camryn Harwick (1-23)

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