Tigers Regain District Title, Look Ahead to States
CATAWISSA: On their home turf for the last time this season, the Tigers of Southern Columbia(10-2) recaptured the District IV “A” crown they lost last year to Bloomsburg, after owning that crown for 16 straight seasons from 1991 through 2006. The opponent was a familiar one as the Eagles of Line Mountain returned to Tiger Stadium where they defeated Southern last season 22 – 17 in the District semis. They brought their best game and played tough, disciplined ball, but came up on the short end of a 37 – 14 final score.
Coming into the game at 8-3, the Eagles’ record and fourth seeding was a bit deceiving as their losses were all within two scores to quality competition – competition from the Twin Valley Conference that Southern Columbia has not faced, including undefeated Williams Valley who is taking on Schuylkill Haven Saturday night for the District XI title.
Line Mountain received the opening kick-off to start the contest and quickly tested the stout run defense of the Tigers. With an unbalanced option attack, senior quarterback, Ryan Klinger made it difficult for Southern to know who had the ball. He kept it for a gain of 18 on the first drive, but two penalties and an incomplete pass forced a punting situation.
The Tigers faired little better on their first possession despite gains of seven and 20 yards by Steve Roth to get to mid-field. An incomplete pass sandwiched by two false start penalties forced them to punt.
Next Southern came up with a big defensive stand to get the ball back on a three-and-out series. Then, the rushing trio of Roth, Sam Springer and Austin Carpenter began to roll. Carpenter racked up 13 yards, Springer burst for 16 and Roth complied 21 as he took it into the endzone from the seven to start the scoring at 7 – 0.
The Eagles, however, were not impressed as they put together a scoring drive of their own. Bruising junior running back, Chris Moore rumbled for 17 yards to get to mid-field. Then Klinger hit sophomore Jordan Welker for a 51 yard touchdown pass. The score was knotted at seven each.
Southern began to march again when, on a first-down, the ball was fumbled on the exchange of a reverse play. Line Mountain recovered it for excellent field position at the Southern Columbia 37. Running the option to near perfection, Klinger and Moore drove the distance with Moore scoring on a nine yard run. The PAT put the Eagles up 14 – 7 at 4:32 in the second.
With frustration mounting, Southern’s offense took control. Springer exploded for 18 yards, then 27 more for a 1st-and-goal at the five. Roth pounded his way in from there and B.J. Snyder’s kick tied the score again at 14.
A huge return on the ensuing kick-off by Jachin Spotts was making the Southern fans nervous once again as he set Line Mt. up with a 1st & 10 at the Tiger 30. Klinger rushed to the 20 on the next play then threw a strike to a wide-open Aaron Inch who dropped an almost certain touchdown ball. Klinger called his own number again but this time coughed up the ball while running the option inside the red zone. Southern had new life at their own 17 with only 46 seconds remaining in the half…
At this point some coaches would settle for taking a knee and going into the locker room with a tie instead of risking turning the ball back over deep in your own territory. But, this is the playoffs and Jim Roth isn’t just some coach. He called on Steve Roth who found a seam off tackle and rumbled 55 yards before being drug down by his face-mask. The penalty advanced the ball to the 13 of Line Mt. where the Tigers were knocking once again. Two plays later Roth took it in from the three and the Southern was up 21 -14 at the half.
Taking possession to start the second half, Southern drove deep into Eagle territory where a penalty and two missed throws stalled the drive. B.J. Snyder was called on to attempt a 35 yard field-goal which he nailed to increase the lead to 24 – 17.
The defensive adjustments made during half-time paid off as Tiger defenders filled the gaps better an stuffed the running game. A big sack on 3rd-and-long by Tony Drain and company knocked the Eagles backwards and forced another punt.
This time Roth broke loose again for a 60 yard gain to the Line Mt. 12, but that was all the further they would get as they called on Snyder once again for a 29 yard field-goal. The score was 27 – 14.
Another strong defensive stand limited Line Mt. to three plays and -4 yards before punting. The punt was fielded by Joey Admire who got bottled up at mid-field and changed direction while shaking some defenders. He cut hard left across the field, then veered back toward the center and went the distance for a 60-yard return for a touchdown, increasing the lead to 34 – 14.
The Eagles’ hopes were diminishing, but their desire wasn’t. Unable to gain much on the ground, Klinger went airborne and connected on passes of 14 and 11 yards, reaching the Southern 10 yard-line with the help of an interference call. The defense, however stiffened and got the ball back on downs at their own 11. From there the Tigers would grind it out on the ground while the substitutes came on the field. Springer added a 26 yard run and Dan Shankweiler ran for 12 to cross the 50, then senior QB Jeremy Campbell took it around the end for 22 yards to set up the final field-goal attempt of 36 yards by Snyder. He went a perfect 3/3 on PATs and 3/3 field-goals to put this one in the books at 37 – 14.
Line Mountain(8-4) ended another strong season with the loss, but took most folks by surprise in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season for them. Coach Todd Rothermel has reason to be proud of his team for their accomplishments, but he is always looking for improvement. “You guys need to be looking ahead to week twelve of next season. You need to have a burning desire,” he said while speaking with his team after the game.
Southern Columbia(10-2) celebrated afterwards as they were presented with the District Championship plaque. As Steve Roth put it, “This one definitely feels better than the Bloomsburg win.” Along with the smiles though was a look of determination in the players’ eyes – a knowledge that the competition is only going to get more difficult. They will travel north into District 2 next week to battle the undefeated Vikings of Riverside. The East is incredibly strong in single A ball this year and whichever team makes it to Hershey will have earned it stripes. The Tigers go into the playoffs rounds as underdogs despite their past dominance. “The nice thing is, the pressure is off you guys from here on… There’s no reason for you not to go out there an give it all you’ve got,” was how coach Roth put it to his players. They gave it quite a bit in this one, rushing for 423 yards, but there is definitely room for improvement as the passing game only went 2/6 for 11 yards and there were too many missed tackles. However, the Tigers are in playoff mode and know how to get it done when adversity strikes.
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