Tigers Tackle Royals in Season Opener
CATAWISSA—The Tigers of Southern Columbia celebrate their 50th Anniversary this year. The first varsity squad was established in 1963. After five decades, the Tigers have won six state championships and have a team this year that many think can contend for a seventh. However, it’s only week one and a lot can happen before week sixteen.
For the second year in a row the Tigers opened up the season against the Pius X Royals. Last season, the Tigers dominated from the start and came out with a 61-0 road victory in Bangor. This year, the Royals kept it much more competitive and after the opening quarter ended, the score remained 0-0. Both defenses showed up to play it seemed a lot earlier than the offenses did. The only real scoring opportunity in the opening quarter ended in a missed 34-yard field goal by Tigers junior kicker Luke Rarig that had the distance, but went wide left.
The second quarter opened up with Pius driving after LB TJ Belle intercepted Tigers quarterback Nick Becker and returned it 30 yards to the 42 yard line. After getting the ball inside the red-zone, linebacker Blake Marks came up with a big sack to force a turnover-on-downs and ended the Royals opportunity to score first. The Tigers took over from their 19, and drove down the field using a nine play drive with eight of them being via the run. With 8:43 remaining in the opening half, fullback Adam Feudale took the handoff in from eight yards out. After Rarig converted the extra-point, the Tigers had the 7-0 lead. “I thought we came out flat in the opening quarter, but picked up the intensity a bit in the second,” said senior Feudale.
Rarig sent the ensuing kickoff into the end-zone, forcing the Royals to start from their own 20. The SCA defense came up with a big stop on third down with a sack shared by Marks and junior Brad Noll. Pius was forced to punt and the Tigers turned a five play drive (all running plays) into a TD. Senior Matt Lupold had the biggest play of the drive taking an inside handoff up the middle for a gain of 19 to the Tiger 1 yard-line. From there, Becker took it in on a sneak to extend the lead to 14-0 with just over five minutes remaining in the opening half. “Offensively, once we got rolling, the running game was pretty effective and we have plenty of backs to do the job for us,” said Southern head coach Jim Roth. “We have a ton of depth in the backfield and they are capable of making plays for us.”
Pius got the ball and went on a little drive before getting stopped and forced to punt with just over a minute in the half. Then, it happened. Arguably the biggest play of the game. Rarig caught the punt at his own 21 and broke a couple tackles before outrunning the pack and taking the punt to the house for a 79 yard TD with just over a minute left before half. Rarig missed the extra point and with 1:11 left in the half the Tigers were in command 20-0. “That was a big play that hurt us and unfortunately you can’t make plays like that against a quality team like Southern,” said Pius head coach Phil Stambaugh referring to Rarig’s punt return for a touchdown. The first half ended and the Royals went into halftime with no points to show in the opening half. In total, Pius had five possessions: 3 punts, a turnover-on-downs, and the final one being the end of the half.
Something must have sparked Pius’ sophomore quarterback Tre Jordan at the half because he came out on fire in the third quarter. In the third quarter alone, he completed all six of his pass attempts for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns. “That’s a sophomore in his first start, I thought he played a pretty decent game,” said Stambaugh. When asked if Jordan reminded him at all of former all-state quarterback AJ Long, the coach cracked a grin and said, “Actually he does. Obviously AJ was a special player, but Tre is going to be a good one too.”
In only the third play of the second half, Jordan completed an 85 yard dart to Eric Marbury for the score to make the game 20-7. After the Tigers returned the ensuing kickoff to the 46 yard line, Becker found senior running back Nate Hunter on a post pattern for a 54 yard touchdown strike to make the score 27-7. “When the running game gets going like it did, it opens up the play-action pass for us” said Becker. “I was nervous at the start, but I had to step in and get the job done,” said the first-year starting quarterback.
On the next series Jordan completed another long pass, this one to tight end Jorne Gilbert, for a 62 yard touchdown to make the score 27-14 with six minutes left in the third quarter. The Tigers answered back on their next possession, this one ended in Hunter rushing for a 25 yard score to make it 34-14 with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Hunter was the biggest surprise of the night after seeing his first action since tearing his ACL last season in a game at Selinsgrove. Hunter said, “I worked for many months at therapy as hard as I could to get back to a high level.” Coach Roth seemed to agree. “I’m impressed. Nate has worked hard in the offseason after suffering that knee injury and he got a lot stronger in the weight room this past summer. He is even more physical this year it seems than he was last year before he got hurt.” Fellow backfield mate Feudale was excited to see his teammate have the night he did as well. “I was really excited to see Nate come back from his injury and run as well as he did. He put in a lot of work to come back from that injury,” said Feudale who was the game’s leading rusher with 131 yards on the ground.
The final score of the third quarter came after a kick return by Dashon Russell put the ball inside Tiger territory to the 47 yard line. After a few running plays that were successful, Jordan threw his third touchdown of the quarter. This one was to sophomore Destyn Woody from 19 yards out to make the score an interesting 34-21 at the end of the third quarter.
The Tigers started the fourth quarter with a typical Southern Columbia drive from years past. Nine straight running plays by Feudale, Hunter, Lupold, and Becker for 72 yards down the field ending with a 13 yard touchdown run by Feudale. “I thought we did a much better job of running the football in the second half” said Becker. Lupold converted the two-point conversion to make the score 42-21 with 10:00 left in the game.
With Pius needing a score on their next possession to stay in the game, the Tigers defense came up with a big turnover. Jordan tried completing a pass to Woody, but Rarig tipped the ball and it landed in the hands of linebacker Robert Delbo of the Tigers. He returned it inside the red zone to the 19, and from there running back Brad Noll finished off the drive with a two-yard score to make the score 49-21 with 9:02 remaining.
The Tigers pulled their starters and the Royals scored their final touchdown of the night with Jordan completing his fourth TD pass of the game to Woody (2 TDs) again. The Tigers scored their final touchdown with just under two minutes remaining. Backup Billy Marzeski had the longest run of the game, a 61 yarder, to put the ball inside the five. From there, Matt Jeremiah scored to make it 55-28 which is the way it ended.
The Tigers (1-0) travel to Montgomery next Friday night and the Royals (0-1) are at Bucktail. Obviously it was just the first game of the season, but the #2 state-ranked Tigers obviously have some pretty lofty goals for this season. “Our ultimate goal is to get to Hershey, but we have to take it game by game and not get ahead of ourselves,” said Hunter. One thing the Tigers can’t afford if they want to be playing in mid-December, is any injuries in the secondary that lost all the starters from a year ago to graduation, and unfortunately starting safety Mason Peters went down in the middle of the game with an injury. “I hope it’s nothing serious. It’s unfortunate because he just came out for the team this year and got the starting spot as a senior. If he’s out for any period of time, that will put a snag into our backfield rotation simply because it will pull Nate Hunter out of there at times to fill in” said Jim Roth.
Pius: 0-0-21-7= 28
SCA: 0-20-14-21= 55
PIUS X (0-1)
Tre Jordan 12-69; Dashon Russell 9-15; Eric Marbury 4-20; Eric Provosty 2-30; James Randall 1-4
Tre Jordan, 13-18-1, 229 yds, 4 TD
Eric Marbury 5-107, TD; Destyn Woody 2-30, 2 TD; Jorne Gilbert 1-62, TD; Dashon Russell 2-18; Eric Provosty 1-6; Sean Stewart 1-3; Hunter Beck 1-3
1st DOWNS: 13
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (1-0)
Adam Feudale 15-131 , 2 TD; Nate Hunter 6-61, TD; Matt Lupold 6-55; Nick Becker 5-17, TD; Blake Marks 3-16; Brad Noll 4-13, TD; Billy Marzeski 3-84; Matt Jeremiah 3-25, TD; Ross Crowl 1-29
Nick Becker, 4-10-1, 96 yds, TD
Nate Hunter 2-59, TD; Luke Rarig 1-30; Zach Tillett 1-7
1st DOWNS: 25
Final Pius X stats courtesy of Josh Funk (PFN)
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