Tigers Top Tornadoes
Kicking and Defense Provide Lift
During Southern Columbia’s now 54 consecutive game regular season winning streak, the Tigers have put points on the board at a staggering pace. Most have come from the offense during that span, but in Friday night’s 29-7 victory over rival Mount Carmel Area, the offense got some needed assistance in their home opener. “It’s still early in the year and high school kids sometimes listen to the noise from the outside of what they are expected to accomplish. Mount Carmel proved tonight that they are a good football team. We didn’t play our best by any means, but Mount Carmel deserves credit for that too,” said Southern coach Jim Roth after his 399th career coaching victory.
The game was the first ever sporting event on the newly turfed Jim Roth Field, and it was a game that will be remembered for a while. It wasn’t an instant classic, but the game was certainly entertaining. “You have to do whatever it takes to win. Obviously we are used to our offense scoring at will, but when they get stopped the special teams unit has to contribute,” said Tiger kicker Elijah Hoffman. The play of the special teams certainly played a major factor. Hoffman became the only kicker in Southern history to kick three field goals in one game. He also nearly missed on a fourth attempt. “I love getting the opportunity to kick a field goal. It doesn’t happen often, so I just try to do my best when I have the chance,” said the senior kicker.
The Tigers defense also made the decisive plays when they needed to. The biggest of them coming with 6:29 left in the game. The Red Tornadoes had the ball trailing 15-7, looking to tie the game, with the momentum on their side. It was at that point that Max Tillett made the biggest play of the young season for the Tigers. “We knew that they had momentum and that we needed to come up with a big play,” said Tillett. The sophomore hit MCA quarterback Tommy Reisinger forcing the ball to pop free. Connor Fulmer fell on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown to put the Tigers up two scores.
“As a defensive lineman you don’t expect to score touchdowns often. Max made a big hit on their quarterback and I was in the right place at the right time. It was nice to be able to find the football and give us more breathing room with the bigger lead,” said Fulmer who celebrated his birthday earlier in the week. Tillett’s gift had to be the best one that he received. “I was able to get my arm into the football as I hit him. Seeing us score there was huge and I was excited about it,” Tillett said. The Tigers had five sacks in the game, but none were bigger than that one.
Southern led 6-0 after the first quarter thanks to field goals of 37 and 29 yards from Hoffman. Hoffman missed a 39-yard attempt with two seconds left in the quarter. SCA added six more points in the second. This time it came on a 53-yard pass from Stone Hollenbach, who attempted a career high 25 passes including 19 in the first half, to Julian Fleming to make the score 12-0 at halftime.
During the first half, Mount Carmel punted on all six of their possessions. However, the Red Tornadoes defense was tough the entire time excluding that long pass play. “We have a pretty good feel on what they do. We know their offensive patterns pretty well. Manus McCracken and Jack Chapman made some big plays in some big situations,” said MCA coach John Darrah. The Red Tornadoes held all-state running back Gaige Garcia to just two yards rushing in the half for SCA.
Hoffman put Southern up 15-0 with 2:25 left in the third on another 29-yard field goal. “Special teams can certainly play a big role in games. We have a strong kicking game and those three field goals were big for us tonight when we needed them,” Roth said. The field goal was the only scoring in the third quarter on the new turf.
Special teams helped Mount Carmel on the following possession when Shane Weidner returned the ensuing kickoff to the Tiger 41 yard line. Six plays later, John Ayres scored on a one yard plunge to make the score 15-7 with 10:24 left in the game. That drive was the only one of the game that Red Tornadoes were able to pick up multiple first downs. MCA finished with less than 100 yards of total offense.
On the following possession, Southern was forced to punt for the first time all season. Fleming got off a great punt that went 53 yards down to the MCA seven yard line. Two plays later, Tillett came up with the strip sack that Fulmer recovered to go up 22-7 with 6:29 remaining. After the Tigers defense forced another punt, Garcia added some insurance with 3:53 left in the game on a 58-yard TD run to make the score 29-7.
Credit Mount Carmel’s defense for a valiant effort and making it a competitive game late into the final quarter. “Their defense came to play tonight. They did a great job of gang tackling our guys and not allowing them any room to get free. We had a few long plays that helped us get the win, but there weren’t as many as we would have liked,” Roth said.
The Red Tornadoes will host a struggling Montoursville squad next week at the Silver Bowl. The Tigers will return to Jim Roth Field to take on Hughesville. Roth will try to become just the third coach in PIAA history to win 400 games and he can do so next week against the Spartans. If SCA wins, he will be the quickest in PIAA history to reach the milestone.
SCA: 6-6-3-14 = 29
MCA: 0-0-0-7 = 7
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (3-0)
Gaige Garcia 11-73, TD; Jeffrey Cox 10-50; Stone Hollenbach 5-26; Tom Manley 4-14
Stone Hollenbach 13-25-0, 220 yds, TD
Julian Fleming 6-80, TD; Preston Zachman 2-61; Tom Manley 2-51; Gaige Garcia 2-26; Jeff Cox 1-2
1st DOWNS: 13
MOUNT CARMEL AREA (2-1)
RUSHING: John Ayres 11-57, TD; Shane Weidner 4-6; CJ Reichard 5-3; Tommy Reisinger 12-(-29)
PASSING: Tommy Reisinger 7-13-0, 41 yds
RECEIVING: Jack Chapman 4-39; Manus McCracken 1-6; Shane Weidner 1-2; John Ayres 1(-6)
1st DOWNS: 5
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