Tigers Top Wildcats on the Road
Strong second half lifts Southern
Southern Columbia came to Central Mountain on Friday night riding a 39 game regular season winning streak. The Tigers also have posted Mercy Rule victories against every team that they have played since week one this season. They moved the streak to 40 consecutive and kept the Mercy Rule streak in tact, but the 62-7 final wasn’t an indication of how well the Wildcats competed against the hottest team in District IV. “It was probably our worst first half of the season. It’s not an excuse, but missing two returning starters on the offensive line and all of our penalties and those interceptions didn’t help,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. “Give Central Mountain credit though, they are better than their record indicates and they played us tough.”
In fact, with just under nine minutes left in the third quarter, Central Mountain was three yards away from cutting Southern’s lead to just a single touchdown. A position Southern Columbia hasn’t been in at any point after intermission this season. “We came out slow and I don’t think our heads were really in it early. We played a sloppy first half, but started to turn it on in the second half,” said Tiger defensive lineman Chase Tillett.
Then, the tables turned in an odd and deflating way for the Wildcats. They went from having a 1st-and-goal at the three, to third and goal from the 37 thanks to three offensive penalties in a row. It was at that moment when Southern’s Steve Toczylousky made the play of the game when he intercepted a pass from Austyn Carson and took it back from 85 yards out to put the Tigers on top 28-7. “I saw right off the bat that their quarterback floated the ball. After I caught it, I had all kinds of blockers in front of me and the rest was easy running behind them,” said Toczylousky.
Instead of the Tigers being in their first second half dog fight of the season, they would use that momentum to rattle off the final 41 points in the ball game to finish the damage. Toczylousky also made a significant impact on the offensive side of the ball scoring touchdowns on two of his three grabs from fellow senior Nick Becker. Another Southern senior, Blake Marks, was the game’s leading rusher with 108 yards on 10 carries. Southern’s defense also settled down late in the first quarter after back to back sacks from the senior defensive end duo of Gabe Delbo and Tillett. “Our defense is at our best when we are able to get early pressure and force their quarterbacks into tougher passes,” Tillett said.
Southern Columbia did make some uncharacteristic mistakes throughout the course of the night, but Roth didn’t seem overly concerned. “I give credit to our guys. After how poorly we played in the first half, we started to settle in during the third and fourth quarters and get out to the big lead,” Roth said. Most notably, the Tigers had trouble containing Wildcat return man Neff. “He’s a great player. I think that return he had for a touchdown was either his eighth or ninth this season,” Roth stated. SCA committed nine penalties, fumbled three times (recovered all three), and Becker threw three interceptions after having arguably the best two game stretch of his career leading up to the game.
“The bottom line is football requires a lot of focus. Sometimes people don’t realize how important special teams are. We had some breakdowns in all three phases and that can certainly be a problem,” said Delbo. Central Mountain played a sloppy game as well. The Wildcats had seven turnovers and were charged with five penalties with the most impactful being a block in the back on what would have been Neff’s second kickoff return for a touchdown in the first half. “I think we will be fine. A lot of the guys have been focused for the most part this year. Playoffs are coming up so that is going to be a key,” Delbo said.
After a first quarter that only had one touchdown from Hunter Thomas on a nine yard plunge, the scoring started in the second. Becker hit Toczylousky on passes of 56 and eight yards to put the Tigers up 21-0. “Whenever I get the ball I have the mentality that I want to score. I think all of our skill players are determined on every touch,” Toczylousky said. Central Mountain got their only score of the night on the ensuing kickoff when junior speedster Justin Neff returned a kickoff 91 yards to pay dirt which made the halftime score 21-7 on Halloween weekend.
Toczylousky’s game changing interception return started the third quarter scoring, and then the Tigers reeled off the final five touchdowns on the ground. Marks, Thomas, Jake Potter, AJ Goodlunas, and Jeffrey Cox each scored once for the black and gold. Central Mountain will finish next week on the road against rival Jersey Shore. Southern Columbia will travel to Selinsgrove in a 9-0 vs 9-0 matchup that will determine the best overall team in the Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference with both teams already having wrapped up their respective divisions. “It should be a nice test for both teams before heading into the playoffs. You have two undefeated teams trying to gain some extra momentum heading into the postseason. Playing against quality opponents is what competition is all about,” said Delbo. The regular season finale will also serve for bragging rights as both the Tigers and Seals have won their division championships. There isn’t an overall conference championship given out, but the two foes have steamrolled through their schedules so far in 2015.
SCA: 7-14-21-20= 62
CM: 0-7-0-0 = 7
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (9-0)
Blake Marks 10-108, TD; Hunter Thomas 9-68, 2 TDs; Jared Torres 11-45; Nic Fetterman 4-45; Jeffrey Cox 2-32, TD; AJ Goodlunas 3-19, TD; Jake Potter 2-17; Sami Abdul 2-11; Nick Becker 1-8; Dylan Kranzel 1-1
Nick Becker 9-16-3, 147 yds, 2 TDs
Steve Toczylousky 3-73, 2 TDs; Hunter Thomas 2-38; Jared Torres 1-22; Blake Marks 2-13; Cam Young 1-1
1st DOWNS: 25
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (5-3)
Hunter Weaver 4-3; Bryce Bitner 1-3; Tanner Weaver 2-0; Justin Neff 5-0; Austyn Carson 1-(-5)
Austyn Carson 6-13-2, 112 yds; Justin Neff 7-9-1, 57 yds
JJ Harris 8-100; Tyler Zablocki 2-67; Hunter Baker 2-(-1); Justin Neff 1-3
1st DOWNS: 5
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