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Southern Out-muscles Pius X

Written by: on Saturday, December 3rd, 2011. Follow Shawn Weller on Twitter.


NAZARETH, PA: In the Eastern Class A State Semi-final game, the Royals of Pius X played host to the Tigers of Southern Columbia, hoping to end their losing streak to the six-time State Champs. The speedy Royals gave the powerful Tigers fits for the first two quarters, but ultimately couldn’t match them man-to-man, giving up 26 unanswered points in the second half, en route to a 55-25 Southern victory. SoCo now holds a 6-0 record over Pius X all-time.

The Royals struck early on their first possession, after sophomore quarterback, AJ Long, took a keeper for 18 yards to the Southern 35, then connected with Drake Freeman for a 35-yard TD reception. Being down 7 – 0 at 10:18 in the opening quarter was not a huge surprise to the Tigers, as the Royals are known for their speed and quick-strike capability. However, being forced to punt after only three rushing attempts served as a wake-up call to SoCo that this was not going to be an easy win.

Southern’s defense kept their heads and forced a three-and-out of their own to set up an eight-play, 54-yard drive to even the score. Brad Fegley started the drive with a 26 yard pass to Keith Day, and Tyler Levan rushed for 17 yards into the Pius red-zone at the 14. Then, on fourth and ten, Fegley threw a slant to Day in double coverage for the score.

At this point, coach Phil Stambaugh’s Royals seemed to have receivers coming out of the woodwork. Wideout, Matt Camilletti, burned the defenders for catches of 34 and 11 yards to set up a first and goal at the Tiger one. Nick DeRea punched it in from there for the go-ahead score. Dylan Eck blocked the PAT attempt and the score was 13 – 7 Royals.

Some untimely flags squelched Southern’s next possession, and the Tigers punted to Pius’ 16 yard-line. In on the receiving action this time was Boise Ross, who out-jumped the defender and took it 84 yards to the endzone. The two-point conversion attempt was stymied, but the Royals quickly were up by 12, 19 – 7, at 10:52 in the second period.

With the potent Tiger running game struggling to find its rhythm, Fegley faked a hand-off and broke loose for 48 yards and a first and goal at the seven. Two plays later he ran a keeper in for a 2-yard TD. Levan blasted in for the two-point conversion, and the Pius lead was narrowed to 19 – 15. Fegley’s leadership continued to guide his Tigers on their next series. He connected with Day again for a 30-yard gain to the Pius 30, ran for12, then pushed across the goal-line for a one-yard TD. SoCo had its first lead of the night at 22 – 19.

From this point on, the line-play for the Tigers improved on both offense and defense, while the Royals’ linemen were visibly tiring. The Southern defense forced a fumble near mid-field, and the offensive backfield started hitting their holes with more determination. Matt Moore clipped off 13 yards, and Levan rushed for seven, nine, and two yards to reach the endzone and a 29 – 19 lead.

AJ Long was determined to keep his Royals in the game, and found a way on third and 13, after a sack by his counterpart, Fegley. Pinned back near mid-field, Long found Ross racing down the side-line, and hooked-up for a 40-yard catch and run. This set up a first and goal at the Tiger 8, and a quick strike to Camilletti for the touchdown. The two-point conversion pass was incomplete at 14.5 seconds, and the nip-and-tuck first half ended with SoCo hanging on to a 29 – 25 lead.

The Tigers came out of the locker room with redoubled intensity and execution to completely out-muscle the Royals in the final two quarters. Fegley extended the lead to 35 – 25 on a 17-yard TD run mid-way through the third. In all, he carried 11 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns, while throwing an efficient five receptions on seven attempts for 124 yards and a touchdown. In 14 games, he has yet to throw an interception.

Next, Moore began to do his thing, breaking tackles and fighting his way for a 31-yard TD run early in the final period. After Keith Day picked-off an AJ Long pass to regain possession for Southern, coach Roth out-witted the Royals by sending his tight end deep on second and 10. Jake Becker hauled in the pass and rumbled to the Pius 18 for a 53-yard gain. Levan added 11 yards, and Moore bolted in from the seven to put SoCo up 47 – 25.

Coach Stambaugh started utilizing short passes as the Tigers went into a prevent defense. The decision was paying-off as Long chipped his way into Southern territory, before taking a draw play 27 yards to the three yard-line. However, DeRea had the ball knocked loose on the ensuing hand-off and Moore recovered for Southern. Three plays later, Levan finally got the break-away he had been looking for. Turning the right corner, he showed that the Royals weren’t the only ones with speed as he accelerated like a dragster on a quarter-mile strip, 77 yards for the final score.

PIUS X (12-2) wrapped up the school’s best season yet with the hard-fought loss. They were second in the east in total points scored as they dominated the All-American Conference and captured the District 11 Class A crown. The future looks bright for the Royals (if they can retain the young players they’ve got) with a sophomore QB on pace to smash the state passing records. On the night, Long went 19 of 36 for 329 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception. Congratulations Royals on a fine 2011 season.

SOUTHERN COLUMBIA(13-1) moved one step closer to a return to the State Final in Hershey that they’ve been so hungry for. After a slow and sloppy start, the Tigers produced three 100+ yard rushers on the night: Levan (20 carries for 173 yards & 2 TD’s); Moore (13 carries for 131 yards & 2 Td’s); Fegley (11carries for 118 yards & 3 TD’s). Keith Day caught three passes for 70 yards and a TD, and Becker had the 53 yard catch. Southern’s players must stay focused on the Eastern State Final game and not be looking ahead. They will need improve execution and a quicker start out-of-the-gate if they want to reach that fifteenth victory for 2011. Coach Roth told his team, “This victory means nothing, because it doesn’t win you anything.” But then he followed up with, “However, it is the biggest win since 2006.” After a commanding second half, the Tigers definitely have their eyes on the ultimate prize.

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