30 In A Row For SoCo
Garcia breaks state record in SCA victory
Southern Columbia’s coaching staff has proven to be the most successful staff in all of Pennsylvania for the last three decades. With that being said, it’s hard to pick out the most surprising season during the championship-filled run, but this year may just be it. After losing 25 seniors from last year’s state championship team, and starting more freshman this year than any other, the Tigers have won their 30th consecutive football game to move to next Saturday’s PIAA Class AA Eastern Final. SCA was able to grind it out for a 20-5 victory over District XI champion Schuylkill Haven. “It was certainly a bizarre game. Not the way I had envisioned it to play out, but we got the win and that’s all that really matters at this point,” said Jim Roth who won his 395th game as Southern’s head coach.
The Tigers came in averaging a state best 50.6 points per game. The Hurricanes also were scoring in bunches averaging 41.5 per contest. Neither offense was able to have much success at all throughout the majority of the state quarterfinal clash. Southern got their points in all three phases of the game. The offense, defense, & special teams all scored a touchdown and that ultimately came down to being the difference. Schuylkill Haven only managed a field goal and safety for their handful of points. The game winning score actually came on the opening kickoff when Hunter Thomas, an all-state running back last season, returned it 93 yards to the house to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead. “I had a nice lane up the middle and I saw Garrett Henry crush a kid. Then I cut it outside to outrun their kicker. I started getting gassed at about the 20, but I was able to shake a final guy off of me to score,” Thomas said.
A lot has been talked about Southern’s “Core Four” group of freshman including Gaige Garcia, Julian Fleming, Cal Haladay, & Tegan Wilk and the quartet didn’t disappoint in the victory. After the Hurricanes kicked a 25-yd field goal to make the score 7-3, Fleming caught a simple slant route and turned it into a 65-yd touchdown to extend the lead to 14-3. “I was able to catch it in stride after clearing their defensive backs and then I just had to outrun their cover guys into the end zone,” Fleming said of his 13th receiving touchdown which is just one off of the single-season school mark. Garcia carried 10 times for 63 yards which was enough to set the school and state, yes state, freshman rushing record. “It feels good with all the great backs that have played here and everywhere. It feels even better that it happened in a win,” said Garcia who now unofficially has 1,819 yards on the season. Southern’s Jerry Marks had held the state record since 1984.
Defensively, Wilk came up with the play of the game. After the Hurricanes produced a safety to make the score 14-5 and got the ball back, the freshman picked off a pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown. “It comes down to the coaching staff making sure that we watch film. I was able to read that play off of film and was fortunate enough to come up with interception and return,” Wilk said. With the score 20-5, Haladay and Anthony Scicchitano came up with a combined stop on a 4th-and-goal from the one yard line to keep the Hurricanes out of the end zone to end their best chance at getting back into the game. “Shicky and I were able to make the read and stop him from getting into the end zone. There was no way that we were letting him score to get back into the game,” said Haladay who now has the third most single-season tackles in school history.
Late in the game with Schuylkill Haven in desperation mode, Cameron Young came up with a Tiger interception to officially seal the victory with under three minutes to play. The interception was the 17th of the senior’s outstanding career which set a new school mark. “It’s a cool accomplishment. I’m glad I’m able to be an example of an undersized guy that wants to compete on every play,” said Young after breaking a tie with Matt Murdock. Although the Tigers defense hasn’t gotten the credit that the high-powered offense has, they made the plays needed to preserve the victory especially down near the goal-line. “We seemed to get some good pressure on their quarterback. They had some trouble with holding onto the football and we were able to shed their blockers,” said lineman Connor Fulmer who had two sacks.
Schuylkill Haven ends their season at 12-2 and Southern Columbia sits at 14-0 and will take on undefeated Ligonier Valley next Friday night at Bald Eagle High School. “At this point in the season, no matter who you play it is going to be a big challenge. They sound like they are a much more pass-oriented team so we will have to get ready for it,” said Roth about the Tigers next opponent. Ligonier Valley is playing in the school’s first ever Eastern Final. The Tigers on the other hand are playing in their state record 16th and have only lost once in the previous 15 appearances.
SCA: 14-0-6-0 = 20
SH: 3-0-2-0 = 5
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (14-0)
Hunter Thomas 6-87; Gaige Garcia 10-63; Nic Fetterman 8-25; Stone Hollenbach 3-12; Julian Fleming 1-4
Hollenbach 4-12-1, 93 yds, TD
Julian Fleming 2-70, TD; Gaige Garcia 1-15; Cam Young 1-8
1st DOWNS: 8
SCHUYLKILL HAVEN (12-2)
Danny Lozada 10-51; Preston Gehring 12-36; Mike Kalyan 12-35; Kobe Brish 11-29
Danny Lozada 3-7-1, 78 yds; Josh Kalyan 0-2-1
Preston Gehring 1-62; Mike Kalyan 1-12; Kobe Brish 1-4
1st DOWNS: 9
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