2015 Team Preview – Southern Columbia (4) – Small School Team # 2
Team Name: Tigers
Jim Roth (31st year at SCA)
Record: 365-62 (never had a losing season)
6 State Championships (PIAA Record)
Andy Mills (36 Yrs)
John Marks (22 Yrs)
Mike Johnston (19 Yrs)
Don Traugh (13 Yrs)
Roger Nunkester (3 Yrs)
Conference: Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference
2014 Record: 11-1 (Division II Champions)
Colors: Black & Vegas Gold
Stadium: Tiger Stadium
Every single Southern Columbia football game can be listened to live on internet radio at www.blackdiamondsports.net. This year Phil Manney and Dave Fegley will be broadcasting the games. The Tigers will also be on local radio at either 99.7 FM or 95.3 FM throughout the season. Look for Twitter posts on game night after each score and quarter and also throughout the week by following @BlackDiamondSN. Keep up to date with the school account @SoCoTigerSports for information as well. On Saturday mornings, there will be a weekly article on this website recapping every Tiger game by Fegley as well.
Luke Rarig: All-State Athlete
Billy Barnes: All-State Linebacker
Trent Donlan: All-State Lineman
Matt Jeremiah: Leading Rusher
Brad Noll: Team Captain
Mike Klebon: Two-Way Starter
Jason Vought, Charles Wertman, Grayson Belles: Starting Linemen
Offensive Starters Returning: (8)
QB Nick Becker
RB Blake Marks
RB Hunter Thomas
WR Steve Toczylousky
WR Cam Young
OL Gabe Delbo
OL Josh Yoder
OL Aaron Kroh
Defensive Starters Returning: (8)
S Steve Toczylousky
CB Billy Marzeski
CB Cam Young
LB Matt Bell
DL Chase Tillett
DL Josh Yoder
DL Gabe Delbo
DL Nick Freeman
FB Jared Torres
LB Austin Knepp
OL Dale Houser
Key Number: 22
Southern Columbia has been the most consistent team in the state for more than two decades. The Tigers have won a state record of 16 consecutive, and 22 out of the last 24 district championships. Since 1991, the only two years that SCA hasn’t won the District IV Championship were in 2007 and last year. 2014 was the first year the team has played at the AA level in program history after dominating the Class A level in prior years.
The offensive unit should be explosive this year lead by the return of senior Blake Marks. The workhorse missed time to start the season with an injury and then had a knee injury that ended his season prematurely. “I’m extremely eager to get back on the field. Missing half of the season last year made me realize how much I love playing and gives me motivation to give 110% on each play because I never know which one may be my last,” said Marks. He was still able to account for 12 total touchdowns last year while only playing in a little over half of the games. With Marks fully healthy, he should provide the Tigers with big play capability both on the ground and as a target for fellow senior quarterback Nick Becker. Hunter Thomas, who will be a junior, was a thorn in the side for opposing defenses as well out of the backfield. Thomas was also hampered by an injury last season causing him to miss some time. When he was healthy, Thomas averaged over 12 yards per carry a season ago and looks to pick up from where he left off. Becker, who threw 11 touchdown passes last season, is entering his third and final season as the team’s signal caller with veteran experience to take control of the offense. “I have focused since last season on being a leader and taking control on and off the field. Telling your team what is realistic and what you need to do to accomplish your goals is a key to your own success,” said Becker. Steve Toczylousky and Cam Young will be the top two returning receivers on the outside. Toczylousky can be a weapon for the Tigers in the red zone and pulls down virtually anything thrown his way. Young, who is the shortest starter on the squad, works just as hard as anyone and will be an asset on the outside. “He’s looked down on for his size, but when you are quick, fast, strong, determined, and know the game of football, it’s hard to be stopped,” Becker said about his junior wide-out Young.
Balance will be important for Jim Roth’s offense as the team should be a strong contender in the postseason. “This skill group will provide us with experience and allow us to have offensive balance,” said the head coach. The line will be the Tigers question mark as they have to replace three graduates. “Our main concern is replacing three offensive linemen,” stated Roth. Josh Yoder and Aaron Kroh will be the two returning starters up front. Yoder is entering his fourth and final year as a starter and has the most experience out of anyone on the roster for Roth’s squad. He has also drawn interest to play college football after impressing coaches at camps and on film. The most intriguing move on the offensive line will be the transition of Gabe Delbo, who was a starter at tight end last season, and will now start at offensive tackle. “The biggest challenge is learning a whole new set of blocking rules and responsibilities. I’m going from being in a rotation on offense to now being an every down offensive lineman,” Delbo said. Dale Houser and Andrew Bell will be the other two starters anchoring the offensive line. Taking Delbo’s spot at tight end will be Garrett Henry. Southern has had quite the line of fullbacks over the years and this year they hope for the same type of success from Jared Torres. The senior showed a lot of promise last year in both junior varsity games and at times in the varsity mix. “He has good size and strength. For a big guy he has a good burst of speed and great vision as well,” said Marks about his newest backfield mate.
Defensively, the Tigers have to replace two all-state performers in linebacker Billy Barnes and lineman Trent Donlan. However, they return most of their leading tacklers. “We will have key returning starters in the back of the defense that also includes other experienced players,” according to Roth. Senior inside linebacker Matt Bell was second on the team last year with 95 tackles and should be able to put up similar numbers this year. The other inside linebacker will be Austin Knepp, who was a starter last year at Pennridge High School. In limited action on defense, Marks was still able to lead the team with four fumble recoveries and added two interceptions. He will start at one of the outside linebacker positions. Jake Potter, who started a few games later on in the season last year due to other injuries, and Ross Crowl will share time at the other outside linebacker position, and they both have had success at the JV level over the past two seasons. “The defense is very solid this year. We need to be aggressive, but we also need to remember our rules and stay disciplined,” stated Marks. Returning in the secondary, Toczylousky and Young, combined for exactly 100 tackles and five interceptions which will provide SCA with a nice safety blanket in the back of their defense. Billy Marzeski, who totaled 63 tackles in 2014 at outside linebacker, will be converted to a cornerback. Marzeski will be one of the fastest players in the conference, and if he is able to stay disciplined the senior should be a valuable asset in coverage. The success of the secondary will be a key late in games that the Tigers are leading when teams will be forced to air it out. “Steve Toczylousky started last year but has improved greatly even from where he was. Defensively he has a knack for finding the ball in the air and playing it well,” said Marks about one of his best friends. Chase Tillett will start at one defensive end, and Gabe Delbo will split series’ with Josh Yoder at the other end spot. With the experience returning on the defensive line, defensive coordinator Andy Mills should be excited to see how much pressure they will force on opposing offensive linemen. All three seniors should cause fits for opposing quarterbacks with their ability to elude blockers off of the edge. Nick Freeman and Chris Grosch will be counted upon to clog holes on the inside from their defensive tackle spots. “You just hope the defense doesn’t get complacent and they realize that they have to keep working and getting better,” Roth said.
The Tigers should also hold an edge against most of their opponents in the special teams’ category which can play a key role as the season progresses. “We return all of our key special team players,” said Roth. Senior Tyler Keiser, a soccer player who converted on 56 of 62 PAT’s, will handle the kicking duties and Becker will be the punter. Yoder will return to do the long-snapping. The return men (Toczylousky, Young, Marks, and Thomas) had some highlight reel plays last year and should be a crucial part for the Tigers in winning the field position battle each week for the black and gold.
Games to Watch:
Selinsgrove: Last season the Tigers won a thriller at home against the Seals 28-21 thanks to a late interception from Billy Barnes to seal the victory. This game, which will be played in the final week of the regular season, should decide the bragging rights of who the best team is in the entire conference. By the time the game hits, Selinsgrove should have star running back Juvon Batts back in action after the senior will reportedly sit out the first part of the year due to academic issues. Southern is the outright favorite in Division II and Selinsgrove should cruise through Division I. This game will also be a great gauge for both coaching staffs on what the teams will need to focus on heading into the district playoffs the following Friday night.
Lewisburg: The last time these two teams matched up in Lewisburg ended in an instant classic in 2011. Lewisburg missed a field goal as time expired to give the Tigers a 29-28 victory. Tyler Levan scored all four Tiger touchdowns in the game, including the game-winning two point conversion with just over a minute remaining. Quarterback Brad Fegley lead the team down the field through the air, while battling leg cramps, on the Tigers’ final possession to set up Levan’s winning score. The Green Dragons will most likely be the only challenge for the Tigers in PHAC Division II. The game will be played on a Thursday night at Bucknell University, the same site where the two teams met in that one point SCA win. Last season, Southern beat the Green Dragons at Tiger Stadium 31-14.
Players to Watch:
Steve Toczylousky: He has the perfect build for a safety and wide-out as he stands at roughly 6’2’’ and 195 pounds. With the strength to beat press coverage and the height to go over defenders, Toczylousky should cause the opposing secondary fits. “I’ve been working on getting stronger and coming off of the ball and my routes faster,” said Toczylousky. On defense he has a knack for the ball and the ability to make opposing receivers think twice about coming over the middle. “At safety I’ve worked on my tackling and breaking on the ball,” Toczylousky said. In the two scrimmages alone, he had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and he averaged over 41 yards per catch with his longest being a 62 yard score. “As for it being my senior year, it’s definitely sad but it makes me want to go out on a positive note. It makes all of the seniors go hard every single play knowing it could be their last play. Everyone has been working hard, and we should have a great season,” said the senior.
Jared Torres: The fullback position at Southern has a long and successful history. New York Giants starting fullback Henry Hynoski is the most famous of the bunch, but there have been other standouts prior to and after him. Torres, a senior first year starter, will be put in that role and depended upon to pick up yardage to keep drives alive this season. “It means a lot to me and there’s a lot of pressure there as well because of all of the great players that came before me at the fullback position,” said a motivated Torres. Playing a position like fullback requires a breed that thrives with contact and Torres fits that role. “The contact is one of my favorite parts because you really demoralize a defense with how hard you hit them. You can make them not want to tackle you again,” Torres said.
Week 1- Shikellamy: The Tigers shut the Braves out 21-0 and held the Shikellamy starters to only 56 yards on 30 plays. In fact, Southern’s defense scored one more touchdown than the Braves offense thanks to a 48 yard pick six from Steve Toczylousky. Chase Tillett had two sacks and also forced a fumble that was recovered by the Tigers. Blake Marks and Hunter Thomas each had a rushing touchdown for the offense.
Week 2- Montoursville: Southern Columbia’s season came to an end with a home playoff loss to the Warriors last season after Southern finished the regular season unblemished. The Tigers got revenge, if you call it that in late August, by defeating Montoursville 28-7 in the final tune-up before the games count for real. Nick Becker had a solid outing by spreading the ball around to four different receivers for scores. Hunter Thomas led the charge with five catches for 93 yards and also added 41 yards on the ground on only four carries. Southern’s defense was also able to limit Montoursville’s veteran duo of quarterback Brycen Mussina and halfback Keith Batkowski to only a handful of big plays which ultimately killed the Tigers in last year’s playoff defeat.
Last year, the Montoursville Warriors came to Tiger Stadium and handed the Tigers their one and only loss of the season in the District IV AA Semi-Final. This season, Southern and Montoursville are the odds-on favorites to play in the final barring a major upset. The other teams to throw in the mix with an outside chance would be Loyalsock and Lewisburg depending on the development of their new starters at key positions. “A big expectation for us will be to play even tougher in the playoffs like a championship team needs to do. The past few years we have played good in the regular season and good in the playoffs. This year we are looking to play good in the regular season and great when the playoffs hit,” Becker said. Without any major injury setbacks, SCA should reclaim the district title by knocking off the team that ended their season in 2014. Once the state playoffs hit, the Tigers biggest challenge will potentially be West Catholic as the Burrs have a ton of athleticism returning lead by a handful of Division I recruits. Both Berks Catholic and Wyomissing Area from District 3 are other teams to keep an eye on in the eastern part of the state as the season progresses. As for Roth’s team, he is hoping the injury bug stays away from his players this season. “If Hunter Thomas and Blake Marks stay healthy, we will be better suited to do something in the playoffs than we were last year. When they were out that was a big part of our offensive production,” Roth said. If Southern wants to make it back to Hershey for the first time since 2011, they will have to get over their recent state playoff slump. The past three seasons Southern has finished perfect in each of the regular seasons, but the teams haven’t had the postseason success of teams of Southern Columbia’s past. Many people view the Tigers achievements each year by looking strictly at their state playoff resume, which fair or not, is because of the name the program has built since the early 1990’s. This senior class is motivated to win a state playoff game as no one on the squad has ever had that feeling. Remarkably, every graduating class dating back even a few years before Southern’s first state title in 1994, has had at least one player that was part of a state playoff win and this senior class doesn’t want to graduate without experiencing a deep run in the state playoff. “Some people think if we’re not playing in Hershey at the end of the season we’re not successful, and we do want to get back to that level,” said Roth. Last year, Trent Donlan and Luke Rarig were the only two team members that were part of previous state playoff victories. They were both freshmen when the Tigers went on to win the 2011 PIAA Eastern Championship and play for a state championship. This class doesn’t want to be the one to end that streak, and it can serve as motivation for the talented senior group throughout the course of the season as the playoffs approach in November. “It’s going to take a different type of attitude. An attitude that is hungry for domination and won’t fade as the season goes on into the playoffs. As a team, we’re going to take every game one at a time and focus on dominating each week,” said Delbo who will be one of the senior leaders. With Southern Columbia’s veteran coaching staff, teams across the state have to fear the potential game plans that the Tigers can come up with after seeing all kinds of schemes and sets over the past 25 years of relevant playoff action. If the Tigers are able to remain healthy, this could be a squad that could contend for a state title as the west is projected to be the weakest it has ever been at the Class AA level. If Southern makes the trip to Hershey, it will mean that every class dating back to 1991 has been represented on a state final roster outside of the Class of 2010. Aliquippa will be the favorites heading in, but South Fayette could knock them off in a WPIAL playoff game. With Roth’s veteran coaching staff, this is the year that the Tigers will finish on top. The 2015 PIAA Class AA gold medalists will hail from Southern Columbia Area by season’s end.
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