Southern Has Historic Night
Tigers offensive output was scary
Halloween ended almost a week ago, but the Southern Columbia offense has continued to be scarier than Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, & Freddy Krueger. The Tigers opened up District IV AA playoff action with a 69-34 Mercy Rule victory over Towanda. The 69 points were the third most ever scored in a game over the program’s 53 years of existence. SCA scored 76 points in a 2004 victory over Pius X and in a 1969 win against Crestwood. “We don’t have many veterans on this team, but the younger guys have continued to impress. The mindset of everyone has flipped 180 degrees compared to where it was at during the preseason. Many people thought this could be a year of rebuilding and struggling at times,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. The only thing the Tigers may need to rebuild is another trophy case at season’s end.
Everyone has seen how lethal the Southern running game has been during the regular season, but in the first quarter it was the passing game that propelled the Tigers over the Black Knights. Stone Hollenbach became the first Southern quarterback to ever throw for four touchdowns in a single game. The sophomore accomplished the feat on four consecutive passes in the first quarter alone. “Their secondary certainly wasn’t the best and we have great athletes on this team. Everyone seemed to be wide open so it was really easy for me to just throw the ball for the receivers to catch and they did all the work,” Hollenbach said. He finished six of seven passing for 158 yards and the four touchdown tosses in the opening quarter.
Julian Fleming scored the first one on a 24-yard fade pattern into the end zone. Towanda actually tied the score at 7-7 on their opening possession thanks to a 47-yard burst by Griffon Sites. A 20-yard pass to Gaige Garcia put the Tigers back in front for good at 14-7. Then, Cam Young caught a 34-yard strike and Fleming hauled one in for a 57-yard score. “I don’t think their secondary was really prepared for that much passing out of us early on. The success of our running game has helped to set up our passing game nicely,” said Fleming. The 28-7 Southern advantage would be a mirror image of the scoring in the next quarter.
Garcia started the second quarter with touchdown runs of 10 and 56 yards to give the top-seeded Tigers a 42-7 lead. The second run put him over the 1,500 yard rushing mark for his all-state caliber freshman season. “The line has continued to do a great job of staying on their blocks. My pulling guard, Andrew Bell, has been opening running lanes for me all season,” Garcia said. The workhorse unofficially has 1,516 yards to go along with 25 touchdowns on the ground.
His partner, senior Hunter Thomas, has continued to move up the all-time rushing list for the school. On a five yard touchdown run in the second quarter, he passed Butch Romanoski for sixth on the career rushing list. Thomas now has unofficially rushed for 3,248 yards over the past three seasons. “Although we have had most of the younger guys getting the headlines this season, we still have a few outstanding seniors like Hunter,” said Roth. The score extended the lead to 49-7.
Sites scored his second touchdown for Black Knights on a one play drive on a 72-yard carry. The junior had an outstanding night in defeat by scoring four times and eclipsing 100 yards both rushing and receiving. Then just before the half, Garcia scored his fourth overall touchdown of the half on a 1-yard plunge to put the defending state champions in front 56-14 at halftime. SoCo’s offense compiled 491 yards of offense in the opening half which is the most they have produced in a half since the 2004 win over Pius X. “All of the different weapons on this team have allowed for us to have success in both the running and passing game. Teams can’t key on just one player because there are so many others players that have the ability to score,” Hollenbach said.
With reserves in for Southern, the Black Knights outscored the Tigers in the second half 20-13. There aren’t many things that the Tigers can do to improve much more this season, but Roth is still a bit concerned with the defense up front. “From week one our defensive front was our biggest concern and heading into week twelve it continues to be,” Roth said. For the second week in a row, Southern’s defense has allowed opponents to score 30+ points on them. The last time that happened in consecutive weeks was in that 2004 season, but the circumstances were a bit different. It happened in the PIAA Eastern Semi-Finals and PIAA Eastern Final, but the Tigers ultimately went on to win their third straight PIAA State Championship.
Next week’s Southern opponent will be fifth seeded Line Mountain who will bring an option-attack to Tiger Stadium. “We just need to continue to play with consistency as we have been doing offensively. The defense has been a little shaky, but we have guys that are capable of fixing it,” said Garcia. The Eagles were trailing North Penn 28-13 entering the fourth quarter, but rallied to beat them 34-28 in overtime. Towanda’s season ends at 5-6 after staring out the year with a record of 1-4. The other semi-final matchup will feature South Williamsport traveling to Wellsboro.
SCA: 28-28-0-13 = 69
TOW: 7-7-6-14 = 34
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (11-0)
Gaige Garcia 11-178, 3 TDs; Hunter Thomas 11-130, TD; Nic Fetterman 6-39, TD; Julian Fleming 1-10; Preston Zachman 3-29; Nate Crowl 3-19; Ty Roadarmel 3-9; Cole Potter 2-4; Stone Hollenbach 1-(-2); Justin Derk 1-(-3)
Stone Hollenbach 6-7-0, 158 yds, 4 TDs; Justin Derk 1-1-0, 11 yds
Julian Fleming 3-90, 2 TDs; Cam Young 2-48, TD; Gaige Garcia 1-20, TD; Nic Fetterman 1-11
1st DOWNS: 22
Griffin Sites 6-141, 3 TDs; Keegan Kisner 17-87, TD; Dalton Potter 2-31; Tanner Kunkle 4-20
Tanner Kunkle 11-18-1, 126 yds, TD
Dalton Potter 5-10; Griffin Sites 4-105, TD
1st DOWNS: 12
Towanda stats courtesy of Damien Scoblink (PE)
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