Tigers Thump Wildcats
Marks and Barnes lift Southern
By Dave Fegley (Twitter: @dfegs9)
The last two carries of Blake Marks’ junior season will both be tallied for two yards up the middle. On a stat sheet the gain is the same, but the two runs were anything but that in meaning. Last week, Marks went down in the third quarter after his two yard run with a knee injury. After getting an MRI a few days later, Marks found out that he tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus which will require surgery and a lengthy rehab process. “I had a pretty good idea something was torn, but I didn’t realize all three things were torn. It was certainly sad news to receive the official word from the doctor,” said Marks after Southern Columbia’s home victory against Central Mountain on Friday night.
One week after the “season ending” injury, not only was Marks at Tiger Stadium to support his teammates, but the junior was suited up and lead the team onto the field prior to kickoff. In fact, with the Tigers leading 14-0 late in the first quarter, thanks to a 13 yard touchdown run by Brad Noll and a long punt return touchdown by Steve Toczylousky, Southern head coach Jim Roth put Marks in the backfield for a final handoff inside the five yard line. “It was Blake’s idea to play in a final game for the year before his surgery. He came in and asked the coaching staff earlier in the week after he found out his knee was torn, and we told him that it was up to his parents and the medical people,” Roth said.
The Tigers tried to hand it off to Marks, but there was a fumble on the exchange and Central Mountain recovered at the three yard line. “I’m going to get a lot of crap about that play because I was on our fullback Jared Torres’ case all day today telling him how important ball security is. Then, what do you know, I fumble for the first time all year,” said Marks while laughing. Torres filled in for senior Matt Jeremiah who sat out to rest for the final regular season game next week.
Southern linebacker Billy Barnes, who came into the game leading the team in both tackles and sacks, would score the team’s third touchdown by intercepting a pass on a fake punt from only eight yards out. “I don’t really get to work too much on catching passes at practice since I play defense, but I was just in the right place at the right time,” stated Barnes. The senior would then make two tackles on the next possession helping to force the Wildcats into a three-and-out which gave the Tigers good field position after the short punt thanks to a rush from Southern’s line.
The offense drove the ball down to the two yard line on a couple of running plays, and Marks trotted back onto the field. This time there was no denying him from the end zone to put Southern up 28-0. “I didn’t want the last game I played in this year to end in me basically getting carried off the field. I wanted to end it on a positive note and show my teammates that I was still there for them,” the junior said. Marks took a handoff at the two yard line and hurdled over his offensive line into the end zone on basically one leg.
“I had it in my mind that I was getting into the end zone no matter what. My line did a great job by pushing forward for me. I guess the adrenaline was pumping so I just jumped as far as I could and got in for the score. To be honest, I didn’t feel a single thing from my leg on the play,” said Marks when talking about his final carry of the season. The TD comes less than a week before his surgery that will sideline him for approximately the next 7-9 months. Marks will have to miss wrestling season as well, and he would have been a returning state finalist. Barnes, the newest Tiger, is also a standout wrestler and made the state final last year.
Mike Klebon caught a beautifully thrown fade pass from Nick Becker on the Tigers next possession from 20 yards out to extend the lead to 35-0. Klebon finished as the Tigers leading receiver with 83 yards and Becker threw for 117 against the Wildcats secondary.
Barnes got his second interception of the night on the next possession. This time he would pick off Wildcats’ quarterback Bryce Bitner, who also threw the pass on the fake punt, at the 41 yard line. After crossing field and picking up some blocks, Barnes broke three tackles and scored his second touchdown of the opening half on defense. “I was just happy to be in the right place again on my second interception. I just ran when I caught it and after running near the goal line, I fought to get into the end zone for the touchdown,” Barnes said. Southern went into the break with a commanding 42-0 lead on Central Mountain. “That’s a first for two defensive touchdowns on two interceptions by the same guy. We’ve never had that happen,” said Roth after the game.
Both teams would score two touchdowns apiece in the second half giving the Tigers a convincing 55-13 home win. Central Mountain will head home next week to host Jersey Shore in their final game. Southern will play host to Selinsgrove in a game that will certainly help the Tigers get ready for the playoffs the following week as they look to stay undefeated in their first season at the class AA level. “Next week will be the main test to see how far our defense has come this year. Selinsgrove is the best running team that we will face during the regular season which comes in the final game before we start our district run,” Roth said.
SCA: 14-28-6-7 = 55
CMT: 0-0-0-13 = 13
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA (9-0)
Hunter Thomas 1-40; Blake Marks 1-2, TD ; Brad Noll 1-13, TD; Nick Becker 2-3; Jared Torres 4-56, TD; Billy Marzeski 2-56, TD; Jake Potter 2-6; Nick Fetterman 3-14; Sam Abdul 1-3; Justin Derk 2-0
Nick Becker 5-11-0, 117 yds, TD
Mike Klebon 3-83, TD; Steve Toczylousky 1-12; Brad Noll 1-22
1st DOWNS: 12
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (1-8)
Hunter Weaver 36-143, TD; Justin Neff 13-29; Bryce Mansfield 1-9; Bryce Bitner 1-0; Ethan McGill 1-(-1); John Harris 3-(-7)
Bryce Bitner 2-8-2, 56 yds, TD
John Harris 2-56, TD
1st DOWNS: 11
Final Central Mountain stats courtesy of Damien Scoblink (Press Enterprise)
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
Share This Post: