Team # 3 Class 2A – Southern Columbia (4)
People all over the state have been envious of the way that the Southern Columbia Tigers have been able to sustain success at the state level for such a long time. No other team in any classification across the state has won more state, district, or league championships since 1994. There isn’t a set formula that accomplishes this, but a motto can sum it up pretty bluntly. The Cats from Catawissa don’t rebuild, they reload. “The kids in the program really buy into the tradition that has been established. They want to all be successful and for that to happen you can’t make excuses. We have also been blessed to have pretty much the same coaching staff around now for a couple of decades,” said Jim Roth who has guided the Tigers to seven state championships. Below is a preview of all that you need to know about the 2016 squad…
Team Name: Southern Columbia Tigers
Jim Roth (32nd year at SCA)
Record: 381-62 (never had a losing season)
7 State Championships (PIAA Record)
Andy Mills (37 years)
John Marks (23 years)
Mike Johnston (21 years)
Don Traugh (15 years)
Roger Nunkester (4 years)
Conference: Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference
2015 Record: 16-0 (PIAA Class AA State Champions)
Colors: Black & Vegas Gold
Stadium: Tiger Stadium (Jim Roth Field)
Every single Southern Columbia football game can be listened to live on internet radio at www.blackdiamondsports.net. 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. On Saturday mornings, there will be a weekly article on this website recapping every Tiger game written by Dave Fegley.
Nick Becker: the school’s all-time career passing yardage and TD leader
Josh Yoder: four year starting lineman & Bucknell recruit
Blake Marks: rushed for 2,552 yards in his career (13th most all-time)
Matt Bell: 251 career tackles & all-state selection
Steve Toczylousky: 12 receiving TD’s last season (2nd best single season)
Gabe Delbo: three year starter & team captain
Offensive Starters Returning: (4)
RB Hunter Thomas
WR Cam Young
TE Garrett Henry
OL Andrew Bell
Defensive Starters Returning: (1)
CB Cam Young
After the Tigers won a state-record seventh state championship last December, head coach Jim Roth knew that the following season would look a lot different. It would also arguably be his most challenging one since taking the program over in 1984. “It’s going to be a challenge. We are losing 25 players to graduation including basically our entire defense and most of our offense. Our success will be determined by who is going to step up into the new roles and have the drive and determination to get the job done,” Roth said. On the ground, the Tigers are losing 2,772 rushing yards and 44 touchdowns from seniors on last year’s team including over 1,000 yards each from Blake Marks and Jared Torres. In the air, senior Nick Becker threw for 1,750 yards and 20 touchdowns. Steve Toczylouksy graduated after catching 30 passes for 758 yards and 12 scores last season. With all of this being said, the Tigers do have their biggest offensive threat returning for one more season in a black and gold uniform. Hunter Thomas earned all-state honors as junior last year after rushing for a team-high 1,593 yards and 24 touchdowns, and he also had the most catches on the squad with 36. Nic Fetterman is penciled in at fullback after showing positive signs in a backup role a year ago. “We have a lot of spots heading into the season with new players in them, but we have a lot of talent in the freshman class to fill some of the spots,” Thomas stated. Two of these new-comers include running back Gaige Garcia and receiver Julian Fleming. Those two and others will battle for playing time at the skill positions. Garcia is expected to start at the halfback opposite of Thomas. Cam Young, who was the second leading receiver last season, will be joined this year in a rotation with Fleming trying to stretch the field in the air attack. Andrew Bell will be the only returning lineman out of the front five, and Garrett Henry returns as the starting tight end. “Even though we have a lot of underclassmen starting on the line, I think everyone is capable of getting the job done. We’ve worked hard over the summer to have more success this fall picking up from the championship last year,” Henry said. Under center this year will be sophomore Stone Hollenbach, a transfer from Lewisburg, and he has been impressive during summer workouts. “I’m very pleased with the way that he has progressed and been able to comfortably grasp our offensive scheme. His arm strength is up there with just about any quarterback that we have had,” Roth said about his new quarterback. Continuing a past tradition, the kicker will once again be a soccer player for SCA. Elijah Hoffman will be in charge of handling the kicking duties.
QB: Stone Hollenbach (So)
RB: Hunter Thomas (Sr) – RB Gaige Garcia (Fr)
FB: Nic Fetterman (Sr)
WR: Cam Young (Sr) – Julian Fleming (Fr)
TE: Garrett Henry (Sr) – Anthony Scicchitano (Jr)
C: Troy Donlan (So)
G: Andrew Bell (Jr) – John Stabinski (So)
T: Connor Fulmer (Jr) – Oak Six (So)
On defense, the Tigers will be even thinner. The secondary will be commanded by Cam Young, an all-state defensive back last season, and he’s the only Tiger to return that started last season. He intercepted eight passes and hopes to build on that even more this year. “We lost ten starters so the key is for the replacements to learn their rules to help create as many turnovers as possible. We want to get the ball back in the hands of the offense to score points,” said Young who had the most tackles out of anyone returning from last season with 55. Sydney Damgaard looks to be the replacement at the other corner and saw action last year a lot on special teams. Blake Day and Teagan Wilk will also be counted on to stop big plays at the safety position. Southern has to replace their entire front eight which could be a major factor when it comes to stopping the run and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Last year, seniors Matt Bell and Austin Knepp were the top two tacklers finishing with 128 and 127 respectively. Chase Tillett had eight sacks and nobody returning this year had more than one in 2015. “Our defensive line depth and inexperience at the four linebacker positions are the main areas of concern,” Roth said. There may be some rotating going on throughout games with how many of the players potentially will be playing on both sides of the ball. “I think this year being physical will be the number one priority. As time goes on, everyone can learn and adjust to their new spots on the field especially with the lack of depth being rotated in and out,” said Andrew Bell who will be one of those players counted on to go both ways. Although the front eight won’t stand out as much from a physical standpoint, there will be a lot of speed coming off of the edges that could turn out to be a nightmare for opposing passing attacks.
DE: Tyler Bendas (Jr) – Jeffrey Cox (Jr)
DT: Troy Donlan (So) – Andrew Bell (Jr)
OLB: Drew Michaels (Sr) – Thomas Manley (Jr)
ILB: Anthony Scicchitano (Jr) – Cal Haladay (Fr)
CB: Cam Young (Sr) – Sydney Damgaard (Sr)
S: Blake Day (Jr) – Teagan Wilk (Fr)
Key Number: 41
Southern Columbia has won 41 straight regular season games dating back to 2011. The last time they lost was to Mount Carmel Area 22-21, and the Tigers had a two touchdown lead in that week nine game heading into the fourth quarter at the Silver Bowl against the Red Tornadoes.
Heading into his final season, Hunter Thomas will have a shot at becoming the school’s career receptions leader. What makes it even more impressive is that he is a running back and not a primary receiving target. The senior currently has 46 career grabs which is tied with Brandon Traugh (2001-2003) for the most ever by a running back. He currently sits 33 catches short of breaking Colby Snyder’s (2004-2007) program record.
In the scrimmage against Shikellamy, the coaching staff wanted to see how confident the younger players would be in their new positions. Some of the guys took full advantage of the only preseason tune-up game before the games count for real. The Tigers downed the Braves 35-7 and showed promising signs in the process. “I’ll take the effort for sure. We saw some good signs on defense with the new guys and lack of previous experience. Our aggressiveness and quickness will be key in our success,” Roth stated. On offense, Gaige Garcia only carried the ball four times, but picked up 86 yards in the process. Hunter Thomas and Nic Fetterman each found the end zone on the ground. Stone Hollenbach, other than throwing one interception, looked poised in the pocket. He threw three touchdown passes. Two of them to Julian Fleming and one to Anthony Scicchitano on a goal-line set.
Games to Watch:
Mount Carmel (Week 3): If there was a year for the Red Tornadoes to get back to competing in this local rivalry, this year would be the perfect time. MCA has more experience returning than SCA, and this was the second summer for the new Mount Carmel coaching staff to implement their new schemes on both sides of the ball. This is also the Tigers first divisional game in 2016.
Montoursville (Week 7): Last year, the Tigers season could have ended before the state playoffs even began. “One of our toughest games is going to be Montoursville because they are going to be looking for revenge after last year,” said Cam Young. Southern defeated Montoursville 56-50 in the District IV title game and the Warriors had a chance to win it on their final possession.
Danville (Week 8): The Ironmen had a young squad last season and showed a lot of promise as the season progressed. With the return of a deep skill group and more experience on the line, this week eight matchup at Danville could be interesting. It will come a week after the Montoursville game and will be SCA’s third straight road game.
Players to Watch:
Gaige Garcia: It’s not often that a freshman gets the opportunity to make an impact from the season’s launch. “He’s physical, elusive, and a very talented runner,” Roth said. Garcia, barring any potential injury setback (knock on wood), will have the opportunity to etch his name amongst the school’s top runners ever by 2019. “My expectations for the backfield are pretty high. Hunter Thomas returns on one of the wings which leaves open the other wing for competition. I’m hoping to compete for that position and earn carries next to him,” Garcia said. The newcomer will also compete for playing time at an outside linebacker position, but fans will be seeing his #23 a lot over the next four years in the backfield.
Anthony Scicchitano: Besides Andrew Bell, Scicchitano was the second biggest contributor out of this year’s junior class on last year’s team. However, his role last year was almost fully focused on special teams with a few snaps at tight end. “Scicchitano played enough last year that he looks really comfortable right now,” said Roth. This year, he will be slated as a starting inside linebacker and will see time in two tight end sets. “My first priority is to get comfortable with our different defenses so that it becomes second nature. That way I don’t have to think and can just hopefully fly around and make plays like the outstanding ones that came before me,” Scicchitano said. Over the past three seasons the likes of Cody Pavlick, Matt Bell, Billy Barnes, Robert Delbo, and Austin Knepp have all had season’s with over 100 tackles from the inside backer spot.
Troy Donlan: Although he didn’t technically ‘start’ last season as a freshman, Donlan gained a lot of valuable experience on the field especially during the Tigers playoff run where he played most of the time. He helped the defense by stopping the run at his defensive tackle spot. This year he will be counted on to produce on both sides of the ball. “My biggest concern is us having to replace so many guys on the offensive line. We lost a lot of senior leadership and someone needs to get the line working together as a unit this year,” Donlan said. The sophomore, who will start both ways, will be counted on to open up running lanes for the running backs. “Troy played enough last year that he has the big game experience. He will be a leader this year even though he’s only a sophomore,” stated Roth.
There will be plenty of doubters this season when it comes to how far the Tigers can go in defending their state championship from 2015. With the PIAA’s new six classification system in place, Southern Columbia will remain in AA which happens to be where they won it all last year. “The first priority is for the younger guys to learn their roles and completely understand them. The second was the work that was put in during the offseason. If both of these priorities work out, then I think we will be able to give the higher caliber teams a run for their money,” Thomas said. With Montoursville’s move up to AAA, the Tigers will be the team to beat in District IV AA with Mount Carmel Area being their toughest competition. As far as the state playoffs are concerned, West Catholic, who the Tigers beat in the Eastern Final a season ago, should be one of the pre-season favorites with the amount of players that they have returning on both sides of the football. Schuylkill Haven will also be a tough out this season with their depth that they will display in the backfield and the size they have on the line.
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