Tigers Awaken and Escape Elimination
CATAWISSA: In what has become a terrific rivalry in recent years, the 2012 version of the Line Mountain Eagles vs. the Southern Columbia Tigers was the most exciting to date. Despite always playing tough against the Tigers, the Eagles have only beaten them once in 14 contests (a 22 – 17 win in the 2007 D-IV semi). But, under first-year head coach Rodney Knock, they played their best game yet, only to watch victory slip away in the final minutes.
Like two brawling heavy-weights, the teams pushed back-and-forth for the first quarter – testing each other for weaknesses. Then, on the first play of the second quarter, Eagles quarterback, Cole Rickert, threw a 27 yard strike to Jeremy Renn for a first-down at the Line Mountain 49. The next play was a toss to Dillan Michael which he carried the remainder of the 51 yards to the endzone. In a flash, Line Mountain was up 7 – 0.
When Southern tried to reciprocate on the third play of their next series, Taylor Young’s 30 yard pass was picked-off by Micheal at the Eagle 46. With a short field, the Eagles clawed their way down to the Tiger 26. It was there that coach Knock sent in back-up QB, Codi Morris, on a third-and-five play. Morris took the keeper, found a seam, broke into Southern’s backfield, and never looked back on a 26 yard touchdown run. A second wobbly PAT conversion, and just like that, the Eagles were up 14 – 0.
With momentum well in their favor, Line Mountain’s defense kept Southern’s typically potent offense in check, holding the 2 touchdown lead into the half. The Eagles were doing everything right, and the Tigers seemed to be trying to wake up from a nap. The only dark spot for Line Mountain came on the last series of the half when Renn sustained an ankle injury while tumbling out-of-bounds on an incomplete pass play. The injury would haunt the Eagles since Renn was also their starting cornerback and return man. In all, Line Mountain dominated the Tigers with over 200 yards of total offense in the half to a dismal 87 yards of offense for Southern.
Coach Roth’s Tigers needed to start executing, finishing plays and make a statement to begin the second half. Receiving the ball at their own 31, that’s just what they did. Young clipped off 15 yards on a QB sweep. Then freshman running-back, Blake Marks, scrambled for 14 to the Eagle 39. In all, Southern took control of the tempo utilizing 12 rushes and one short pass before Adam Feudale punched it in from the one yard-line.
However, as methodical as the Tigers’ drive was, the Eagles were explosive. Rickert hit Michael again – this time for 53 yards to the Southern 11. Rickert then ran keepers for 10 yards and the one yard touchdown. Line Mountain had recaptured the two-score lead in 1 minute 33 seconds.
Southern’s next possession ended in a punt after three plays when a holding penalty brought back a long run by Feudale, then Young was sacked for a loss of four. Jake Becker’s punt netted 50 yards and was downed at the Eagles’ 18.
The Tiger defense proceeded to make a crucial stop, forcing a short punt by the Eagles which was downed just across mid-field at the Tiger 46. From there Young orchestrated an eight play, 54 yard drive, culminating in a five yard TD dive by Feudale at 11:45 in the final period.
Trailing 21-14, Southern needed a quick stop. The momentum had shifted and the Tigers sensed that the Eagles were running out of steam. The defense stiffened and forced another three-and-out by the Eagles. This time the punt rolled out-of-bounds at the Tiger 40 with 9:41 remaining.
Matt Lupold got the call and broke loose for 25 yards to the Line Mountain 35. Next Marks took the hand-off and shot past the weary defenders, going the distance of 35 yards for the touchdown and the tie at 21.
With 9:12 on the clock, coach Knock knew he needed to regain control and give his defense a rest. Faced with a fourth-and-one at their own 29 he decided to go for it. With the defense anticipating a QB keeper for the first-down, Rickert dropped back and threw a quick strike to tight end Erik Smeltz for a 30 yard pick-up into Tiger territory. The Eagles kept chipping their way down-field and attempted another fourth down conversion at the Tiger 26. Needing seven yards, Rickert dropped back to pass and was smothered by Garet Sosnoski blitzing from his line-backer position. The 11 yard loss gave Southern the ball back at their own 37.
Young ran a keeper 14 yards across the 50, then he tossed a quick screen to Feudale, who raced 44 yards to the endzone for the go-ahead score.
Trailing for the first time at 28 – 21, the Eagles had 3:18 left to travel 80 yards. Utilizing short passes, Rickert marched his team down-field, converting on fourth down twice. With a first-and-10 at Southern’s 35 with 34 seconds left to play, the intensity peaked. The Tigers brought heavy pressure on the next four plays, culminating in a fourth down interception by Matt Klock at the 11 yard-line with 11 seconds to play. Young took a knee to run out the clock and take the win.
LINE MOUNTAIN(8-3) ended their season with nothing to hang their heads over. They out-played the undefeated Tigers for much of the game and simply got wore down with so many two-way players vs. the larger Southern roster. There motto for the week leading up to the contest was “Believe” and they certainly made believers out of a lot of surprised Tiger players and fans.
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA(11-0) advances to the District IV final with the narrow victory. They will host South Williamsport(10-1) whom they defeated 42-21 on week four of the season. The Mounties shocked a heavily favored Bloomsburg Panther team 32 – 16 to advance to the final.
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