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Southern rolls to State Semis

Written by: on Friday, November 26th, 2021. Follow Cody Smith on Twitter.


CATAWISSA – It didn’t take long for Southern Columbia to take control of Richland Friday night in Catawissa. The visiting Rams committed a pair of costly turnovers in the opening quarter, and the home Tigers dominated all facets of the game to roll to a 62-20 victory.

The win advances Southern Columbia in the PIAA Class 2A State Playoffs, where the team will play in the State Semifinals next week. Richland’s season comes to a close in the quarterfinal round. The Rams close out the season with an overall record of 11-3.

Richland won the toss and chose to defer to the second half in hopes of slowing down the Southern Columbia offensive attack in the early going. Unfortunately for the Rams, it took just two plays from the Tigers to find pay dirt and strike first in the contest. Following a kickoff out of bounds and a chunk play by running back Braeden Wisloski, senior running back and Kent State-bound Gavin Garcia ripped a 57-yard run to put Southern Columbia on the board just 20 seconds into the game.

Southern’s rushing attack kept Richland off balance all night, as the Tigers rolled to 408 yards on the ground on just 35 attempts for an 11.6 yard-per-carry clip.

“Our line did a great job tonight,” said Garcia of his team’s rushing attack. “Every single run we were coming back in the huddle saying ‘Wow. There are holes everywhere..’ The line being able to make those holes for us with the elite backfield that we have really shown us how good we really can be.”

Following the opening drive by the Tigers, Richland drove right down the field themselves to knot things back up at seven points apiece. The Rams used a much more methodical drive – marching down the field on a four-minute drive that consisted of eight plays.

The scoring drive culminated with a four-yard run by senior quarterback Kellan Stahl. Stahl scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in the game.

Southern Columbia’s rushing attack continued to rip off big plays on the team’s second drive. On the second play from scrimmage, Garcia ripped off a 20-yard run that put him over the 2,000 rushing yard mark on the season. Garcia’s impressive stats on the ground this season have him running for nearly nine yards per carry while averaging over 150 rushing yards per game.

Wisloski also ripped off a 16-yard run on the drive before Garcia scored two plays later on a 17-yard run.

The game-changing moment came on the following drive. Richland possessed the ball down 14-7 and needed to maintain pace with the Southern Columbia offense. On a 2nd-and-7 from their own 37-yard line, Richland QB Kellan Stahl launched a pass deep down the near sideline. The ball was intercepted by Southern defensive back Conner Gallagher whose tight coverage led to the easy pick.

Southern once again drove the field without attempting a single pass. The Tigers went 69 yards on seven plays – capped off by a 2-yard rushing score by Wes Barnes – to go up 21-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, disaster struck yet again for the visiting Rams. A fumble on the kick return was recovered by Gallagher once again. On the first play following the fumble, Southern Columbia quarterback Blake Wise dropped back and delivered a dime to Garcia on his first pass attempt of the night to give the Tigers a 28-7 lead with still 36 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

“On that interception, I just looked up and the ball was right there,” said Gallagher. “On the fumble, Carter Madden punched it out and I was at the right place at the right time. We were all trying to strip the ball and that time it worked out.”

The quick swing in momentum certainly gave Southern enough breathing room and seemingly took the wind out of Richland’s sails. The Rams regained possession and went three-and-out on a sack and back-to-back incomplete passes.

Southern once again tacked on a touchdown when Garcia scored from 26 yards out. In all, Garcia accounted for six Southern Columbia touchdowns in the game; five coming on the ground and one through the air. He finished the night with a game-high 206 rushing yards.

“If you get (Gavin Garcia) started, he’s just so good at that second move.” said coach Jim Roth of his D1-bound senior. “Generally, if we’re giving him that initial hole he can get to the next level and its just so hard for guys in that second and third level to tackle him in the open field. He has a ton of burst.”

Richland continued to compound mistakes on its next drive. On just the second play of the drive, multiple Southern Columbia defenders converged on Stahl and the ball popped free. Linebacker Garrett Garcia scooped the ball up and took it back for a score to put Southern up 41-7 just three and a half minutes into the second quarter.

With the game seemingly out of reach already, Richland put together a nice drive to close the half which gave them a bit of life considering they were receiving the second-half kickoff. Stahl recorded his second rushing score of the game after the Rams drove 80 yards 11 plays. Stahl finally began connecting with his receivers on the drive as he went 5-for-7 for 54 yards through the air on the drive.

In the second half, Richland failed to score on its first two opportunities and Southern finally put the game in the mercy rule on a five-yard run by Gavin Garcia. Both teams tacked on late touchdowns, Southern on a 56-yard run by Wisloski and Richland on a five-yard run by Lanigan McCulty.

In all, coach Roth was happy with how his team dominated in all phases of the game.

“The thought coming in was that if our offense could do what they’ve been doing, and we didn’t give up the big play, that would be key.” said Roth “The way the offense was playing tonight, our defensive effort was more than sufficient. The offensive line did a real good job, and all three backs ran well.”

Southern Columbia (13-1) advances to the PIAA Class 2A State Semifinals with the win where the team looks to face Northern Lehigh (11-3). The Bulldogs topped West Catholic 48-24 in their quarterfinal matchup.


Southern Columbia 62, Richland 20 


Richland                                 7  7  0  6 – 20

Southern Columbia             28  20  7  7 – 62

First Quarter

SC—Gavin Garcia 57-yard run (Isaac Carter PAT Good), 11:40.

R—Kellan Stahl 4-yard run (Griffin Larue PAT Good), 7:41.

SC—Garcia 17-yard run (Carter PAT Good), 5:29.

SC—Wes Barnes 2-yard run (Carter PAT Good), 0:54

SC—Garcia 25-yard reception from Blake Wise (Carter PAT Good), 0:36

Second Quarter

SC—Garcia 26-yard run (Carter PAT Good), 9:24.

SC—Garrett Garcia 7-yard fumble return (PAT No Good), 8:36.

SC—Gav. Garcia 11-yard run (Carter PAT Good), 4:08.

R—Stahl 1-yard run (Larue PAT Good), 0:34

Third Quarter

SC—Gav. Garcia 5-yard run (Carter PAT Good), 4:19.

Fourth Quarter

SC—Braeden Wisloski 56-yard run (Carter PAT Good), 11:46.

R—Lanigan McCulty 5-yard run (PAT No Good), 4:20.

TEAM STATISTICS         R                 SC

First downs                             20                12

Total yards                              305             464

Rushes-yards                         32-117        35-408

Yards passing                        188             56

Passing (comp.-att.-int.)       16-34-1      3-4-0

Fumbles-lost                           4-2              1-0

Penalties-yards                      0-0              5-31



RUSHINGRichland: Sam Penna 3-49, Stahl 12-27 2TD, Tucker Lindrose 4-22, Grayden Lewis 9-20, McCulty 1-5 TD, Draveyn Plachy 1-3, Joe Penna 1-0, TEAM 1-(-9). Southern Columbia: Gav. Garcia 12-206 5TD, Wisloski 12-147 TD, Barnes 8-54 TD, Trevor Yorks 1-3, TEAM 2-(-2).

PASSINGRichland: Stahl 14-27 163 yards INT, S. Penna 2-7 25 yards. Southern Columbia: Wise 3-4 56 yards TD.

RECEIVINGRichland: Larue 8-98, S. Penna 3-30, Demont Johnson 2-27, Luke Feichtel 2-25, Lewis 1-8. Southern Columbia: Gav. Garcia 2-43 TD, Barnes 1-13.

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