Tigers Win Battle of Unbeaten Teams
SCA won in all three phases against Montoursville
Ever since last November’s District IV championship thriller, both the Tigers and Warriors have anxiously been awaiting the sequel. Given the fact that Southern Columbia and Montoursville were the only two remaining undefeated teams in the 18 team Heartland Conference, it added that much more hype to the matchup. “The guys knew going in that tonight was the only time we would play each other this year with Montoursville moving up from AA to AAA with the new classifications. That and the fact that both teams were 6-0 added to the buildup,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. His Tigers took advantage of the only chance that they would have to take on the Warriors in 2016 by winning on the road in convincing fashion 42-21. The result showed fans around the conference that Southern is once again the best in the business.
Last season, seniors Hunter Thomas and Cam Young were important assets to the Tigers in their state championship run. This season the media has been focusing more on the talented freshman class that Southern has on their roster including the likes of Gaige Garcia and Julian Fleming. The core four didn’t disappoint on Friday night at Memorial Stadium. “When we get on a roll we are tough to compete with. Tonight our offense didn’t have to play as much because the defense and special teams were both scoring points,” Thomas said. He scored on a rushing touchdown and also caught a touchdown pass. Fleming had a pick six and added a long kickoff return for a score. Young also had a pick six and Garcia reached pay dirt on the ground.
The primary concern for Southern coming in was playing solid pass defense against Montoursville’s prolific throw-first offense which was spearheaded by senior quarterback Brycen Mussina. The Tigers used different personnel packages and constantly blitzed to make life uneasy for Mussina. “Our defensive line and linebackers did a great job of forcing pressure all night. It’s a lot easier in pass coverage when the other quarterback can’t just sit back and wait for receivers to get open,” said Fleming who is working in some at the corner position opposite of Young with the lack of production leading up to the game from other players. On 35 pass attempts, Mussina threw 23 of them on the run while being chased down by voracious Tiger pass rushers.
On the opening drive of the game, Southern Columbia drove down the field threatening to score until Stone Hollenbach was intercepted by Nolan Ott in the end zone putting a halt to the scoring chance. Montoursville couldn’t capitalize on their first possession and gave the ball back to the Tigers on a three-and-out. Thomas, who had missed the last two games with an injury, scored the first touchdown of the game on a 25-yard run. “That was a tremendous feeling. The doctors told me initially that I’d be out at least two to three weeks, but in my head I knew I was going to make sure I was back for this one,” said the running back. The next SCA score would come from the defense when Young intercepted a pass and returned it 41 yards to put the defending state champions in front 14-0 after the opening quarter. “They seemed like they were trying to test me out early. I haven’t had many passes thrown in my direction this season, so I just try to make the most out of each opportunity,” Young said.
The Warriors got on the scoreboard with 5:17 left in the first half on a 1-yard run by Torin Lewis which was set up by a 35-yard pass completion to Ott. Fleming didn’t give the home crowd much time to cheer as he returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to make the score 21-7 in favor of the Tigers. “Julian Fleming wasn’t fazed at all in the big moment. Our goal right now is actually figuring out ways to get the ball in his hands more often with how explosive that he can be,” said Roth. Southern had a chance to expand on their lead before the half, but Hollenbach’s second interception put an end to the threat. Riley Conboy intercepted the pass at the 1-yard line and Montoursville ran out the rest of the clock to head to the locker rooms for the intermission.
Montoursville drove right down the field to start the third quarter, but they fumbled on a mishandled snap at the 11. Southern defensive tackle Troy Donlan was in the right spot to pounce on it. “Luckily their guard let me right through on the play and I was able to get right on it. When I was on the ground I was just yelling that I had it and didn’t let go,” said the sophomore. After turning the ball over on downs, it was Fleming’s turn to come up with the big defensive play. He intercepted a Mussina pass at the 12-yard line and returned it 88 yards for the defense’s second score on the night. “I was in tight coverage and was able to jump the route. Connor Fulmer then had a great block on the return which helped me get into the end zone,” Fleming said. After Elijah Hoffman’s point after, the Tigers were leading 28-7.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Mussina found his favorite target in Mitch Rothrock and he scored on a 55-yard pass. Southern answered the call on the first offensive play of their next drive with the same result. A 55-yard pass from Hollebach to Thomas put the Tigers lead back up to three touchdowns at 35-14. Thomas carried two defenders on his back for the final eight yards until reaching the goal line. The lack of tackling was a common theme for the Warriors throughout the night in the loss. “Schematically we were in the position to make plays, but we just didn’t get it done. We have been talking about improving on our tackling and we didn’t. They have some good players and you need to make tackles to have any type of success,” Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said.
Tom Shea made the score 35-21 with 7:41 left in the game on an end-around run that went five yards for a score. Garcia, who was the game’s leading rusher with 110 yards, ended any comeback bid that the Warriors were thinking when he broke three tackles on his travels to the end zone. The touchdown run covered 42 yards and put Garcia over the 900-yard mark on the season through his first seven career games. “It’s definitely not a secret anymore that we have talented young players. The freshman class is one of the strongest we have had, so the ones playing varsity football are certainly capable of getting the job done and haven’t disappointed,” said Roth.
Montoursville will try to rebound next week as they take on a Milton squad that is about as depleted as a team possibly can be. The Black Panthers haven’t been competitive at all during their 0-7 start. Southern will head on the road for the third consecutive week to take the on Danville. The Ironmen received a lot of preseason hype, but they haven’t been able to live up to it and currently sit at 4-3 after two straight losses.
SCA: 14-7-7-14 = 42
MTV: 0-7-0-14 = 21
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (7-0)
Hunter Thomas 10-88, TD; Gaige Garcia 9-110, TD; Nic Fetterman 10-33; Stone Hollenbach 2-6; Ty Roadarmel 1-5; Nate Crowl 2-15
Stone Hollenbach 9-14-2, 116 yds, TD
Hunter Thomas 3-57, TD; Cam Young 2-18; Julian Fleming 1-14; Gaige Garcia 2-22; Nic Fetterman 1-5
1st DOWNS: 16
Nolan Ott 13-34; Torin Lewis 7-16, TD; Brycen Mussina 8-10; Logan Ott 2-6; Tom Shea 1-5, TD; Keegan Leahy 1-1.
Brycen Mussina 16-35-2, 252 yds., TD
Riley Conboy 6-66; Mitch Rothrock 4-86, TD; Tom Shea 3-47; Nolan Ott 1-35; Aaron Stoner 1-19; Keegan Leahy 1-(-1)
1st DOWNS: 16
Montoursville stats provided by Damien Scoblink (PE)
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