Southern Columbia wins its sixth-straight Class 2A state title, taking down Westinghouse, 37-22
Photos courtesy of Matt Topper
MECHANICSBURG, PA — A few months ago, Braeden Wisloski wasn’t supposed to be here in December. Neither was Wes Barnes or Blake Wise, or legendary Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth.
A few months ago, the Tigers were considered dead.
They were sitting at an uncharacteristic 5-3 after suffering their third double-figure loss of the season. Those are things that simply don’t happen to the Southern Columbia Tigers.
But they did.
Roth and Tigers got rectified as soon as Barnes returned after being hurt against Danville Sept. 23. Internally, the Tigers never wavered and landed where they always seem to land in December—in the PIAA Class 2A state finals.
This time, however, Southern Columbia wasn’t supposed to win. District 8 champion Westinghouse was undefeated, bigger, stronger, faster, able to offset anything the Tigers could do, and able to compensate for any mistakes.
It didn’t matter.
Southern Columbia continued its dominance, winning its sixth-straight PIAA Class 2A state championship and 13th state crown overall with a 37-22 victory over talented Westinghouse Friday afternoon at Chapman Field at Cumberland Valley High School.
This may have also been one of Hall of Fame coach Jim Roth’s best coaching jobs. There was more upheaval than he’s used to this season, with a thinner team that was banged up for a portion of the year. The Tigers did get rocked three times, but Roth’s steady hand and his experienced coaching staff were not about to let that tip over the Tigers’ season.
“This team made strides and was playing at a different level from the Troy game on, and as I told the team after this game, this game was an image of the season, with the adversity we faced during the season,” Roth said. “We had to fight and battle. This was not as easy as a lot of (state championships), but probably a little more satisfying when you have to scratch and claw.
“We had to come a long way from where we were, but I give a lot of credit to our coaches. I talk about this every year. Our assistants do a great job coaching every year. When we go out and approach it next year, we’ll approach it like we had an average year. As soon as you take your foot off the pedal as a coach, kids aren’t stupid. They can sense it. Then you start getting kids that become complacent.
“That’s the thing I give a lot of credit to our coaches for because they coach our kids no matter what. We were coaching our kids like they were undefeated, even though a lot of people were doubting us after three losses. And the players bought in.”
Every day after practice, the Southern Columbia would break to the collective yell, “State champs.”
It’s an attitude Wisloski was not about to let go of.
“We came out and bombed it here, Southern Columbia football is never dead, so we lost three times, we still came out and dominated and that’s what we did here,” said Wisloski, who’s bound for Maryland and rushed for a game-high 158 yards on 19 carries, scoring on a 38-yard run in the third quarter and a 61-yard pass reception. “When we lost Wes Barnes, we were a little down in the Danville game. When he came back, we knew we would get back. We knew we needed to step it up.
“I didn’t know we were going to win, but I felt we could win. We felt we would come out in the second half and dominate.”
The Tigers had to wait a little longer than that.
Southern Columbia (13-3) was clinging to a 15-14 lead entering the fourth quarter. That set the stage for one of the game’s decisive plays when Southern Columbia quarterback Blake Wise surprised Westinghouse (15-1) and everyone else—with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Wisloski, who did the heavy lifting, twisting, and turning his way to the goal line.
On Westinghouse’s next possession, the Bulldogs fumbled the ball, giving Southern Columbia control again. This time, Louden Murphy bolted 35 yards up the middle untouched for what looked like a comfortable 29-14 lead with 8:47 left to play.
“We were not only playing 11 guys, but we were also playing a culture of winning, that’s a great football team over there,” Westinghouse coach Donta Green said. “We’ll lick our wounds and we’ll be back.”
Southern Columbia took a 7-6 lead into halftime. What was interesting about that was it came courtesy of a Westinghouse gift. With just under 10 minutes to play in the first half, Green opted to go for it on a fourth-and-three at the Westinghouse 26. Keyshawn Morsillo’s pass intended for Deshaun Blackwell down the middle was broken up by the Tigers’ Dominic Fetterolf.
Southern Columbia took full advantage of the fortunate field position. The Tigers needed eight plays and a draining 4-minutes, 46 seconds to travel 26 yards, and it was still dubious whether or not Tyler Arnold, the Tigers’ backup sneak quarterback, even crossed the goal line.
But on the second, and third efforts, Arnold fell into the end zone and Isaac Carter’s extra-point kick spelled the important single-digit lead for the Tigers.
“If I had the opportunity 10 out of 10 times, I would go for it,” Green explained. “Absolutely, 100 percent. I would bet on my guys 100 times out of 100. I felt at the moment we could get that first down. I’ll live with it. That was on me. I told every single one of the guys that was on me. That (Southern Columbia) touchdown was on me.”
Westinghouse began slow, but on the Bulldogs’ second drive, they got moving. With just under seven minutes to go in the first quarter, Morsillo ran off a 42-yard gain, bringing the ball into Southern Columbia territory for the first time. Kahlil Taylor closed the drive with a 22-yard touchdown run, though a missed extra point gave Westinghouse a temporary 6-0 lead.
By halftime, Wisloski had rushed for 99 yards on 11 carries, averaging 9 yards a carry, many of those yards coming in chunks between the tackles. Westinghouse’s Morsillo countered with 83 yards on six carries, averaging 13.8 yards a carry, many of which came on delayed draws.
Southern Columbia was uncharacteristically flagged four times in the first half for 20 yards, and the Tigers were a meager 1-for-6 on third-down conversions, though were successful on 2 of 4 fourth-down attempts. Westinghouse was 1-for-3 on third-down conversions and game-impacting 0-for-1 on fourth down.
Southern Columbia (13-3) 0 7 8 22-37
Westinghouse (15-1) 6 0 8 8-22
W – Kahlil Taylor 22 run (kick failed), 6:37
SC – Tyler Arnold 1 run (Isaac Carter kick), 5:09
SC – Braeden Wisloski 38 run (Arnold run), 2:51
W – Taylor 54 yd pass from Keyshawn Morsillo (Davon Jones pass from Morsillo), 1:56
SC – Wisloski 61 pass from Blake Wise (Carter kick), 10:34
SC – Louden Murphy 35 run (Carter kick), 8:47
W – Jones 47 pass from Morsillo (Jones pass from Morsillo), 3:08
SC – Carter Madden 9 run (Louden Murphy run), 2:04
Joseph Santoliquito is an 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. Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
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