Southern Holds on to Defeat Mount Carmel
CATAWISSA: Over the past fifteen seasons the match-up between the Red Tornadoes of Mount Carmel Area and the Tigers of Southern Columbia Area has become a classic rivalry. Both teams came into this latest contest with seven wins in the series and a 6-2 record on the season. One of these perennial powers was poised to tip the scales in their favor. In the last ten years Southern has held the advantage, and Friday night they were able to hang on for a 17-14 victory in a defensive struggle.
Strong defensive stands forced each team to punt the ball away twice to open the game, despite Mount Carmel taking possession in Southern territory both times. Late in the first quarter the Tigers were able to put together the first significant drive of the night primarily on the arm of quarterback Jake Townsend. He connected with Kieth Day for a first down near mid-field, then the pair hooked up again on a 3rd & 15 play which gained 27 yards down to the Mount Carmel 32. Two plays later a Jake Morton 30-yard touchdown screen pass was called back on a penalty. On the following snap however, Townsend found Cody Rosenberger on a 39-yard toss to the 1-yardline. Morton punched it in from there to put the Tigers up 7-0 with 37 seconds left in the opening quarter.
A few series later the Tiger defense forced a 4th & 20 after a group sack for a loss of 13 yards. On the ensuing punt a holding call against the Tornadoes gave Southern the ball at the MCA 41. It only took one play for Tyrell Thomas to find a seam a burst for a 41-yard touchdown as it looked like the Tigers were taking control of the game at 14-0 with 8:33 left in the first half.
To make matters worse for Mount Carmel, Eddie Stewart, their starting quarterback, was knocked out of the game with a knee injury on the next to the last play of the half. What many in the stands didn’t know at that time was that Southern had also lost a key player when Rosenberger was sidelined with a broken collarbone. The loss is the Tigers’ third starter to be knocked out for the season with an injury in what is arguably one of the most grueling schedules in the state.
If things looked bleak for the Red Tornadoes, nobody told sophomore replacement QB, Rob Varano. He calmly led his team onto the field to begin the second half, and , on the second play from scrimmage, Meyrick Lamb, turned the corner on a left sweep and raced for a 65-yard touchdown.
With a 14-7 score at 11:06 in the third, Southern knew they had to put up more points. A great kick return by Alex Fidler to the MCA 40 set the Tigers up with great field-position. After a 15-yard run by Thomas set up a 1st & goal at the seven, MCA’s defense stiffened. A false-start penalty and a sack forced a field-goal attempt. Despite a high snap and kicking into a stiff wind, Colton Yeick’s 30-yard kick found its mark and proved to be the difference in the game.
Strong running by Lamb and level-headed play by Varano enabled Mount Carmel to tack on another touchdown at 8:02 in the 4th, but it would not be enough as the Tiger defense held strong and the offense ran out the clock to pull out the win.
MOUNT CARMEL (6-3) looks to improve their standing in the District IV-AA playoffs next week as they host the Shamokin Indians (5-4) in the Coal Bucket Game.
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (7-2) will see if they can take top seed in the District IV-A playoffs when they host last year’s AAA State Champion Selinsgrove Seals (6-3) who have won their last six in a row after a shaky 0-3 start to the season. District 11’s Pine Grove (7-2) could be of some help to the Tigers if they can up-end the Line Mountain Eagles (8-1) whose only loss was to Southern in the season opener to the tune of 49-20.
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