Southern Columbia scores 42 by halftime in win over Upper Dauphin
SELINSGROVE – Most football coaches and teams aren’t interested in moral victories, especially at this time of the year.
But those may be the only type of victories any team is able to come up with against Southern Columbia this season. Upper Dauphin, which entered Friday night’s PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal matchup with Southern Columbia having scored the third-most points in the state, managed to put the ball in the end zone in the first half against Southern’s first team defense for only the third time this season.
The problem was, that came after the Tigers had already taken a 42-0 lead. Although the Trojans scored twice more in the second half against Southern’s second team defense and nearly doubled the number of points that the Tigers have allowed this season, it wasn’t nearly enough as Southern Columbia advanced to the semifinals and ended the most successful season in Upper Dauphin history with a 63-22 win over the Trojans.
“We were just outmatched and we knew it coming in,” said Upper Dauphin coach Kent Smeltz. “Honestly, they’re the best team in the state in any classification. They’re just so talented and they’re well-coached. We knew what we were up against, but it still hurts.”
Upper Dauphin finishes its standout season with a 12-1 record, the program’s first District 3 championship, and a Tri-Valley League title in the final year of the league as the Trojans will move into the Mid-Penn next year.
“We got a great group of seniors and they’ve done so much for this program,” said Smeltz. “Everything comes to an end but it’s hard when it does.”
What the Trojans were up against is simply one of the most talented teams in Pennsylvania high school football history, and the Tigers showed it once again as they scored on their first seven and eight of 10 possessions in the game. Southern, which entered the game with the second-most points scored in the state, featured a balanced offensive attack as quarterback Preston Zachman, the Wisconsin commit, threw for 112 yards on just 4-of-6 passing with a touchdown and also ran for 110 yards on just three carries for two touchdowns. Julian Fleming, the Ohio State commit, hauled in three catches for 80 yards and a touchdown, while Gaige Garcia, the Michigan commit, accumulated 80 rushing yards on only three carries with a touchdown, and younger brother Gavin Garcia had 91 yards on eight carries with a pair of scores.
Meanwhile, the Southern defense, which entered the game having given up only 26 points in their first 13 games, yielded 22 to the Trojans as well as 280 yards. However, only 127 of those came in the first half against the first team defense, which still had its work cut out for it at times with Upper Dauphin’s misdirection plays.
“They’re a good offensive team with a good scheme and if we take something away from this game defensively, it’s that when you play a team like this, you have to be disciplined, have gap control up front, and if you’re an outside guy, you can’t be peeking inside and everybody just has to play their position,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. “A few times we didn’t have a good angle on their quarterback on pass rushes and he was able to get outside, and he’s a good athlete. But, overall, our defense still played real well and offensively, we executed and everyone contributed.”
For the second straight week, Southern Columbia’s defense forced a three-and-out on its opponents’ first possession after giving up a big play. Last week, Mount Carmel recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff but Southern recorded a pair of sacks to force the Red Tornadoes to punt. This time, the Trojans got a 45-yard kickoff return by Macklin Ayers to set them up on the Southern 46. But Upper Dauphin gained a total of just three yards and punted, pinning Southern inside its own 20 at their own 19.
But the Tigers would need just five plays to go the 81 yards and take the lead. Despite barely overthrowing a wide open Fleming for what would have likely been a touchdown on the first play of the drive, Zachman capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown run in which he eluded a pair of blitzing defenders.
Upper Dauphin then put together a sustained drive on its next possession, as it started at its own 30 and got four first downs to get down to the Southern 15, which included three third down conversions. But Jake Ramberger had the ball punched out on the 12th play of the drive and Jake Davis covered for the Tigers.
“It would have been nice to have put one in there on our second drive but it wouldn’t have changed the outcome,” said Smeltz. “They’re just really, really good. Their speed – my goodness – their speed is unbelievable. There’s just not much you can say.”
“That was a momentum swing without question,” said Roth. “Our defense has played well all year and whether it’s a stop or a turnover, it seems like if there’s even the slightest bit of adversity, somebody steps up and makes a play and that was another example there.”
From there, Zachman hit Fleming for a 25-yard reception, and then three plays later, Zachman called his own number with a 54-yard run down the left sideline to make it 14-0.
The Trojans went three-and-out on their ensuing drive, and Southern took over near midfield, where Gaige Garcia went for a 48-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Tigers’ next drive to make it 21-0.
Following another Upper Dauphin punt, Zachman hit Fleming for a 39-yard reception, and then Gavin Garcia finished the two-play drive with a six-yard touchdown run to make it 28-0.
After another Upper Dauphin three-and-out, Southern put together another quick drive that went 63 yards in just four plays capped by Fleming’s 16-yard touchdown catch in which he hauled in Zachman’s pass in double coverage while being held. The Tigers then made it 42-0 on Ty Roadarmel’s two-yard run after another Upper Dauphin three-and-out.
Upper Dauphin was finally able to break through on the final play of the first half. After another great kickoff return by Ayers, this one for 37 yards, the Trojans took possession at their own 45 with 1:41 left in the half. Ayers hit Sam Kerwin for a 21-yard reception and Kade Matter for a 35-yard hookup to give the Trojans a first-and-goal at the Southern 2. Upper Dauphin took its final timeout of the half with :20 left and Ayers was stopped on first down at the Southern 1. With the clock running, Upper Dauphin displayed some outstanding discipline to get the entire offense set and run one more play, getting the snap off with about two second left, and Ayers ran it in to get the Trojans on the board. While a successful two-point conversion would have stopped the mercy rule from going into effect at the beginning of the second half, at least temporarily, the try was unsuccessful.
That score marked only the third first half touchdown scored against Southern this year. Jersey Shore, which advanced to the Class 4A semifinals with a win over Pottsville on Friday, scored in the first half against the Tigers back in Week 7, as did Danville in Week 10. Aside from those two touchdowns, the remainder of the points scored against Southern this year have come in the second half against its second team.
Two failed two-point conversion wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because Gavin Garcia found the end zone on a 20-yard run on Southern’s first second half possession to make it 49-6. The Tigers would add two more second half touchdowns, including a 91-yard kickoff return by Wes Barnes.
Ayres added two more short touchdown runs for Upper Dauphin against Southern’s second team defense and the Trojans converted on both two-point conversions.
Southern Columbia 63, Upper Dauphin 22
Upper Dauphin (12-1) 0 6 8 8 – 22
Southern Columbia (14-0) 14 28 14 7 – 63
8:26 – (SC) Preston Zachman 22-yard run (Haupt kick), 5-81, 1:18
:44 – (SC) Preston Zachman 54-yard run (Haupt kick), 4-85, :58
10:21 – (SC) Gaige Garcia 48-yard run (Haupt kick), 1-48, :10
8:07 – (SC) Gavin Garcia 6-yard run (Haupt kick), 2-45, :37
5:07 – (SC) Julian Fleming 16-yard pass from Preston Zachman (Haupt kick), 4-63, 1:15
1:41 – (SC) Ty Roadarmel 2-yard run (Haupt kick), 5-55, 1:53
:00 – (UD) Macklin Ayers 1-yard run (run failed), 6-55, 1:41
9:04 – (SC) Gavin Garcia 20-yard run (Haupt kick), 5-65, 2:56
1:10 – (UD) Macklin Ayers 3-yard run (Kerwin pass from Ayers), 3-4, 1:24
:54 – (SC) Wes Barnes 91-yard kickoff return (Haupt kick)
9:10 – (UD) Macklin Ayers 1-yard run (Ramberger run), 6-70, 3:44
3:36 – (SC) Wes Barnes 6-yard run (Haupt kick), 8-55, 5:34
First downs 13 24
Rushes-net yards 42-139 32-377
Passing yardage 141 112
Passing 7-14-0-0 4-6-1-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 8-55 0-0
RUSHING: Upper Dauphin: Jake Ramberger (16-91), Macklin Ayers (16-33-3), Hunter Lentz (2-17), Kade Matter (2-2), Dalton Boyer (2-(-9)), Christian Snyder (1-2), Aiden Wiest (1-1), David Johnson (1-1), Tyler Cleveland (1-1); Southern Columbia: Gavin Garcia (8-91-2), Wes Barnes (6-34-1), Ty Roadarmel (5-33-1), Preston Zachman (3-110-2), Gaige Garcia (3-80-1), Matt Masala (3-14), Jayden McCormick (2-14), Braden Heim (1-2), TEAM (1-(-1))
PASSING: Upper Dauphin: Macklin Ayers (7-11-141-0-0), Jake Ramberger (0-2-0-0-0), Tyler Cleveland (0-1-0-0-0); Southern Columbia: Preston Zachman (4-6-112-1-0)
RECEIVING: Upper Dauphin: Jake Ramberger (4-71), Kade Matter (2-56), Sam Kerwin (1-21); Southern Columbia: Julian Fleming (3-80-1), Gaige Garcia (1-32)
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