Southern Columbia beats South Williamsport 49-14, Wins Sixth Straight District Title
CATAWISSA – To most programs, a district championship is cause for celebration, along with receiving district medals and a trophy on the field after the game.
But at Southern Columbia, unless one was told that Friday’s District 4 Class AA championship was indeed a championship game, it would have seemed like just another game to the casual observer. In fact, for Southern, it was just another routine Friday night in the fall – a lopsided win followed by a postgame message to get ready for next week and whatever challenges it might entail.
Southern won its sixth straight district title with a 49-14 win over South Williamsport on Friday. But to the players on the team and most of the limited fans in attendance, it was indeed just another game.
“I told the team they might not look at this as a big deal, but this is a district championship,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. “There was a time when there were big celebrations for winning the district title. Obviously our goals are higher than that but it’s a stepping stone. We probably appreciate it more as coaches. These players haven’t experienced anything other than winning a district title.”
In fact, not a single player on Southern’s roster has experienced anything other than wins. The win marked not only the Tigers’ sixth straight district championship and their 28th in the last 30 years, but also their 57th consecutive win dating back to the beginning of the 2017 season, and the program’s 88th win in their last 89 games going back to 2015.
With the win, the Tigers advance to the state quarterfinals next week, where they will face District 6 champion Richland for the second straight year in the state tournament. Last year, Southern defeated Richland in the state semifinals en route to their third straight state title.
Like the vast majority of the 56 others before it, this one was over early, mainly thanks to the performance of Gavin Garcia, who scored four touchdowns on just six carries in the first half alone and finished with 168 yards on those six touches.
South Williamsport managed to pick up a first down after receiving the opening kickoff, and elected to go for it on a 4th-and-1 from their own 48. But Zack Miller was stripped of the ball on the play, and Southern took over at its own 45. Two plays later, Garcia burst around the right side for a 40-yard touchdown.
The Mounties then had a third-and-1 on their next drive but were pushed back for a three-yard loss on their third down play and forced to punt after going three-and-out. Southern once again took over near midfield and needed just two plays to make it 14-0 on Wes Barnes’ 55-yard touchdown run as he burst up the middle and eluded several would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone.
Nick Zeigler then picked off a long pass near midfield on the first play of South’s next drive, and Southern proceeded to take six plays to score this time, capped with Garcia’s second touchdown of the night, this one from four yards. A 37-yard screen pass to Barnes was the big pickup of the drive.
The Tigers turned it over on their next drive at the end of the first quarter, but responded with three more touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 42-0 halftime lead. Garcia touchdown runs of 26 and 76 yards sandwiched around a Braeden Wisloski one-yard touchdown run that followed a blocked punt by Derek Berlitz.
While Garcia and the Tigers were running all over South’s defense to the tune of 274 first-half rushing yards, Southern’s defense was once again giving its opponent fits. After South’s initial first down on its first drive, the Mounties only managed one more first down the remainder of the half, and that came after they already trailed 35-0. The Tigers held them to just 48 total yards in the first half.
Southern added one more touchdown to its point total on its first drive of the second half as Barnes capped a 122-yard night with his second touchdown of the evening.
“He’s a really good player. He’s got that combination like Gavin with size and speed. Probably doesn’t use the moves quite as much as Gavin but he will change direction and has good acceleration and quickness and he runs hard and breaks tackles,” said Roth. “He had a strong game and that’s a key because our passing game has been kind of hit or miss, but Barnes makes it hard for teams to just line up and key on Gavin.”
The Mounties were stopped on downs again on their first drive of the second half, but then Zack Miller capped his outstanding high school career with touchdowns runs of eight and four yards in the fourth quarter, which both capped long South drives. The first went 89 yards while the second went 64.
With his two late touchdowns, Miller finished his career with a 1,000-yard season in just seven games for the Mounties as he ran for 129 yards, while Landon Lorson threw for 91 yards.
For the Mounties, this marked their fifth district title game appearance in the last nine seasons. Except for 2014, when they were in Class A and Southern had moved up to AA and they went all the way to the state semifinals behind Dominick Bragalone, each of South’s other four district title game appearances in both Class A and AA have ended at the hands of Southern Columbia. Still, given all the Mounties had to endure this season, which included losing their scrimmage and first two games of the season due to COVID-19, this one can be considered a great success.
“Southern Columbia has one of the greatest programs in the country, but I’m just so proud of our team and what we did to get back here (to the district title game), especially with everything we’ve had to deal with this year with COVID and missing scrimmages and games,” said South Williamsport coach Chris Eiswerth. “We started three freshmen who are 14 years old so for them to get a taste of this even in defeat, it’s just going to build character down the road.
“Every year, we try to build a varsity football team and we have 10-15 kids who are starters and what we’ve been able to do at South Williamsport just to get back here – I can’t say enough about our coaches and staff and our kids. Our district final was almost last week at Troy. I loved the way we finished strong with two touchdowns, but with everything that’s happened, not being sure how many games we’d get, if any, then going on a nice little run and knocking Troy off last week as underdogs, this year was a great success and that speaks to the work ethic of these youngsters and what they do all year trying to build a team that’s going to compete.”
Southern Columbia 49, South Williamsport 14
South Williamsport (5-2) 0 0 0 14 – 14
Southern Columbia (9-0) 21 21 7 0 – 49
8:19 – (SC) Gavin Garcia 40-yard run (Carter kick), 2-55, :40
5:47 – (SC) Wes Barnes 55-yard run (Carter kick), 2-55, :20
3:01 – (SC) Gavin Garcia 4-yard run (Carter kick), 6-52, 2:32
9:58 – (SC) Gavin Garcia 26-yard run (Carter kick), 3-42, :53
6:47 – (SC) Braeden Wisloski 1-yard run (Carter kick), 2-1, :45
1:26 – (SC) Gavin Garcia 76-yard run (Carter kick), 2-67, :43
7:55 – (SC) Wes Barnes 1-yard run (Carter kick), 6-62, 4:05
6:18 – (SW) Zack Miller 8-yard run (Hockman kick), 6-89, 3:25
:18 – (SW) Zack Miller 4-yard run (Hockman kick), 5-64, 2:39
First downs 12 19
Rushes-net yards 34-148 32-435
Passing yardage 91 56
Passing 8-14-0-2 3-7-0-1
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 2-17 7-55
RUSHING: South Williamsport: Zack Miller (21-129-2), Lane Lusk (10-34), Clayton Swarthout (2-1), TEAM (1-(-16)); Southern Columbia: Wes Barnes (7-122-2), Gavin Garcia (6-168-4), Connor Gallagher (6-63), Matt Masala (4-22), Trevor Yorks (4-22), Braeden Wisloski (3-17-1), Brandon Gedman (1-18), Liam Klebon (1-16)
PASSING: South Williamsport: Landon Lorson (8-14-91-0-2); Southern Columbia: Liam Klebon (3-7-56-0-1)
RECEIVING: South Williamsport: Grant Bachman (3-61), Chantz McCloskey (3-25), Zack Miller (1-4), Cameron Greenaway (1-1); Southern Columbia: Wes Barnes (1-37), Jake Davis (1-15), Jake Toczylousky (1-4)
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