Southern Columbia drives its way to seven-straight state Class 2A titles with 21-20 win over Westinghouse
Photos by Matt Topper
MECHANICSBURG, PA — Jim Roth is in his 40th year at Southern Columbia. The legendary Tigers’ coach has seen everything. Well, almost everything. What Roth can tuck away for safe keeping, to be forever cherished for posterity, is Southern Columbia’s own version of “The Drive.”
Trailing by six, looking at the longest stretch of 99 yards a struggling team had to cross when nothing for them was working, the Tigers found a way.
Southern Columbia’s Carter Madden’s 12-yard score, and Isaac Carter’s extra point, with 42 seconds left gave the Tigers their seventh-straight PIAA Class 2A state championship and 14th overall by surviving a 21-20 scare over District 8 champion Westinghouse Friday afternoon at Chapman Field at Cumberland Valley High School.
It was a rematch of last year’s Class 2A championship and for most of the game, it appeared the Bulldogs would avenge their loss and snap Southern Columbia’s streak. The Tigers had labored offensively, with one offensive touchdown, and staring at 99 yards with 6:19 to play.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Roth admitted. “There has never been one in a game like this. It is kind of neat, because we have been in a lot of these, and some people would ask what was different about this game, or that game, and you have to think about it a little bit.
“There’s not going to be any hesitation when they ask about this game. There were no games that came even close to how this game finished. Yeah, we have our ‘Drive.’”
As the Tigers huddled in the back of their end zone with their season at stake, Madden and his teammates were yelling “This is it, this is the drive.” At halftime, a very vocal Roth had challenged his team to show their collective character.
On this drive, in this moment, they did.
Working behind the offensive line of left tackle Dylan Stine, left guard Jude Bremigen, center Robert Long, right guard Brayton Lunger, left tackle John Quinton and tight end Jace Malakoski, the Tigers plowed their way downfield.
The pivotal moment of the 12-play drive came fourth-and-eight at the Westinghouse 45 with less than two minutes to play. Southern Columbia quarterback Blake Wise hit Kyle Christman with a 10-yard pass at the 35, that appeared to extend the drive. But a Southern Columbia holding call negated the play, and the Tigers were forced into a fourth-and-18 from their 45 with 1:41 left to play.
Then things got murky.
Wise was swallowed by the Westinghouse defense on the following play—and as the Bulldogs celebrated their first state championship walking off the field, a flag was pointed out on the far side.
The 10-yard walk-off placed Southern Columbia right back where it was, facing another fourth-and-eight to the Westinghouse 45. On the same play they ran earlier, Wise connected with Christman for 11. Madden bolted left for 16, putting the ball at the Bulldogs’ 18 as the seconds ticked down. After a one-yard Garrett Garcia run got the Tigers to the 17, a Westinghouse encroachment call brought the miracle a little closer, to the 12.
That’s when Madden charged left behind sealing blocks from Stine, Garcia, and Wise, and scored a touchdown that will be remembered forever in the long, rich annals of Southern Columbia football.
“I got the inside reverse, and Stine sealed the edge, Garrett sealed the edge, and Wise came out to lead block,” Madden said. “My memory is this whole season with my senior friends.”
Wise leaves as the only high school quarterback in Pennsylvania history who won three straight state championships.
“Everyone knows pressure makes diamonds and I think we all had some doubts when we got called for that first hold,” Wise said. “We went out there and did our thing. When Carter scored, I can’t describe it. We believed.”
Even Roth himself had his doubts as the ball sat on the Tigers’ one.
“I’m thinking it’s a long shot quite frankly,” Roth admitted. “I knew we had the ability to do it. But we needed some people to step up and make some plays like we hadn’t been doing during the game. All you can do as a coach is expect your kids to come through as they had done in the past.
“But we have never been in that situation before.”
What set the stage was a Southern Columbia stop with just under seven minutes left. Westinghouse’s Lloyd Penn booted a 58-yard punt that rolled to the Tigers’ one with 6:19.
That’s what Southern Columbia was looking at 99 yards. Garrett Garcia started the drive with a 28-yard run. On a third-and-three at the 36, Garcia bulled his way for four to the Tigers’ 40.
Then, Louden Murphy almost broke one to the Westinghouse 47. Another Murphy 2-yard run, followed by the Bulldogs’ Sincere Shannon taking down Jake Hoy for no gain at the 45 set up the fourth-and-eight.
The rest will be marked for Southern Columbia history.
Westinghouse had been dominating much of the game.
With 3:38 left in the third quarter, Khalil Green hit the breaking K’shawn Hawkins for a 49-yard touchdown giving the Bulldogs their first lead, 20-14, after the failed two-point conversion.
Southern Columbia did not complete its first pass until late in the third quarter. Westinghouse controlled the third, running off 15 plays for 120 yards to the Tigers’ eight plays for 35 yards. Southern Columbia, thanks to an early Carter stop, were fortunate to come out trailing by six.
The teams went into halftime locked at 14-14. It started badly for Westinghouse.
Southern Columbia scored on its first drive—and Westinghouse’s first drive. Murphy went untouched for 83 yards just 55 seconds into the game to put the Tigers up early, 7-0. That was followed by Carter’s 68-yard pick-six for a 14-0 Tigers lead with 8:58 left in the first quarter.
“This is like a movie, we were down, and at halftime, our seniors had something to say, our coaches had something to say,” said Carter, who plans on kicking at West Point. “We struggled in the first half. Everyone who struggled in the first half stepped up in the second half when it counted.
“Coach Roth got really emotional down there when we kicked (the winning extra point). Westinghouse had the momentum. Coach Roth let us know we had to turn it around at halftime. I had no doubts about the winning extra point. I put my head down and did my thing.”
Down 14-0, the Bulldogs used a seven-play, 68-yard drive to get back into the game, when Green found Taymir O’Neal with a 10-yard touchdown pass with 5:42 left in the opening quarter. The score was made possible by junior receiver Lloyd Penn’s Lynn Swann-like 43-yard diving catch at the Tigers’ 21. Westinghouse tried a two-point conversion that was stuffed.
After a red zone stop by the Bulldogs, they charged back with an 88-yard, 10-play drive that ended when Green bolted into the end zone from five yards out, then connected with O’Neal again for the two-point conversion, knotting the game at 14-14 with 6:46 left in the half.
Southern Columbia was flagged six times in the first half for 60 yards and suffered two costly drops that were sure touchdowns. The Bulldogs had outgained Southern Columbia, 202-127. All the Tigers’ yards came on the ground, while 137 of Westinghouse’s 202 yards came through the air in the half. The Bulldogs were averaging 22.8 yards a catch.
For the game, Westinghouse outgained the Tigers 361 to 266, averaging 6.6 yards a play to Southern Columbia’s 5.3 yards a play.
“I can say we have had long drives, showed character and toughness when our backs were against the wall in state championship games,” Roth said. “But we’ve never been in a state championship game where we needed 99 yards with six minutes to go.”
Westinghouse (13-1) 6 8 6 0-20
Southern Columbia (15-1) 14 0 0 7-21
SC – Louden Murphy 83 run (Isaac Carter kick), 11:05
SC – Carter 68 INT return (Carter kick), 8:58
W – Taymir O’Neal 10 pass from Khalil Green (run failed), 5:42
W – Green 5 run (O’Neal pass from Green), 6:46
SC – Braeden Wisloski 38 run (Arnold run), 2:51
W – K’shawn Hawkins 49 pass from Green (run failed), 3:38
SC – Carter Madden 12 run (Carter kick), :42
FULL GAME STATS
FIRST DOWNS 17/18
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 38-154/40-239
PASSING YDS (NET) 207/27
Passes Cmp-Att-Int 10-16-2/4-10-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 54-361/50-266
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0/0-0
Punt Returns-Yards 0-0/0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 3-39/4-70
Interception Returns-Yards 1-33/2-68
Punts (Number-Avg) 2-40.5/1-47.0
Possession Time 23:56/23:44
Third-Down Conversions 7 of 12/5 of 11
Fourth-Down Conversions 0 of 2/2 of 4
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 2-2/1-3
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall-of-fame, award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito [twitter.com].
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