Southern Columbia Quenches The Comets
MILL HALL, PA: Southern Columbia faced an unfamiliar foe in the Eastern State Final game played at Central Mountain High School’s Don Malinak Stadium. The Comets of Penns Manor High School had come farther than ever before to reach the state semi-final game, but found themselves battling a team, the likes of which, they have not seen before. With a great fan base supporting both schools, and spirits running high, the teams took to the field. The questions about whether or not the run-heavy offense of the Comets, led by 2,000 yard rushing quarterback, Danny Ferens, could overcome the balanced attack of a powerful Southern Tiger team would soon be answered.
Penns Manor received the ball to start, but were quickly shut down after only five yards on three plays. The Tigers first touch of the night went to their workhorse fullback, Tyler Levan, who weaved through traffic and raced 64 yards for the quick score. Dylan Swank, who was perfect on the night with five PAT kicks, extended the lead to 7 – 0 for the Tigers.
Southern’s defense continued to be stifling, forcing the stunned Comets into another three-and-out series after only three yards gained. Starting at mid-field the Tigers marched forward again, largely on the arm of Brad Fegley. He connected with Matt Moore for 30 yards, then Keith Day for 12 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the two. However, Casey Savitski had the ball jarred loose at the goal-line on the following play and the Tigers were stymied…for awhile.
Four plays later, a Vodopevic pass was intercepted by Joe Kleman and SoCo was back in business again at the 50 yard-line. Fegley launched a quick strike to Moore for 47 yards to the three, and Levan punched it in from there to go up 14 – 0.
Another defensive stand and the Tigers regained possession at their own 28. This drive lasted ten plays, culminating in passes for 12 yards to Day and 27 yards to Moore, who then dove in from the three for the touchdown. The drive was bitter-sweet though with Levan leaving the game due to a knee injury.
In response, Penns Manor could only muster two yards of offense on three plays before punting the ball away. From this point on the officials took it upon themselves to disrupt the flow of the game for the duration. With flags flying every few plays, the Tigers were only given extra yards to run. Savitski took a reverse 33 yards into Comet territory, then a screen pass to Day was taken 15 more yards for a first-and-ten at the 21. Then Levan’s replacement, Adam Feudale, got to show his abilities. Spinning and clawing, while breaking at least four tackles, he would not be denied the endzone on a 21-yard rumble.
Trailing 28 – 0, the Comets got their first break of the night when Joey Vodopevic broke free for a long return on the ensuing kick-off to the Tiger 22 yard-line. However, Southern’s defense stayed true and came up with another stop, forcing PM over on downs at the 13.
With time dwindling in the first half, Southern went to the two minute drill. However, on the fourth play, a 12-yard reception by Day, the ball was apparently stripped loose as he hit the ground and the Comets had one more shot. Lining up in a wildcat formation Vodopevic got the snap and threw to his QB, Ferens, who caught the ball in traffic and slipped a tackle on his way to a 33 yard touchdown. The first half ended at 28 – 6.
Penns Manor forced the Tigers’ only punt of the night to open the second half, but they fared much worse on their possession. After a sack by Fegley, and another by Moore set up a fourth-and-17, a high snap sailed over the punter and through the endzone for the safety. The free-kick gave Southern good field position. Solid running by all four backs got them to the goal-line, where Moore broke through to put the score out of reach at 37 – 6 at the end of the third quarter.
The next series held one of the most bizarre calls I’ve ever witnessed. SoCo’s defense forced a punt after only three plays on fourth-and-six. The punt was blocked and sailed straight into the air, coming down at the original line of scrimmage where it glanced off a Southern lineman and was jumped on by a Comet player well short of a first-down. The officials gave them the ball and a fresh set of downs along with assessing an unsportsmanlike penalty against the coaches for complaining about the call…
In all, it made little difference when Dylan Eck registered a sack for a loss of 13, then Moore got another, five yards deeper. Then, on fourth-and-28, Kleman came up with his second pick of the night and ran it back to near mid-field. Southern’s reserves ran out the clock and the game came to an end with Southern Columbia the victors by a score of 37 – 6. Following the hand-shakes, coach Roth brought his team into focus, “We didn’t get this far for a second place trophy” he encouraged them as they set their sights on Hershey Park Stadium and the upcoming showdown with the Clairton Bears.
PENNS MANOR(12-2) completed their best season in the school’s history by clinching the District VI crown, and advancing to the eastern final. Congratulations Comets on a fine 2011 season.
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA(14-1) advances to the State Championship game in Hershey for the first time since winning gold in 2006. This Tiger team has battled hard to get back to championship form and is seeking to regain the program’s claim to the pride of winning its seventh State Title.
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