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Tigers win 49-7 in District Opener

Written by: on Sunday, November 1st, 2020. Follow Matt Beltz on Twitter.


CATAWISSA – The more things change, the more they remain the same.

After a tumultuous year thus far full of uncertainty, things are the same as they ever were, at least as it relates to the District 4 Class AA football playoffs. Despite all of the uncertainty and unknowns, Southern Columbia being in a District 4 Championship game remains a constant.

The Tigers advanced to their sixth straight District 4 AA championship game with a 49-7 win over Line Mountain on Friday. They will look for their sixth straight title and 28th in 30 years next week as they host South Williamsport, which went on the road to defeat Troy on Friday.

The win also marks Southern’s 56th consecutive win overall, and regardless of how this season turns out, the Tigers will take an 88-game regular-season winning streak into next fall.

But before that streak can be extended in 2021, the Tigers have business to take care of as they seek not only a sixth consecutive district title but also a fourth straight state championship. They took their first step with a dominating defensive performance and a fast start.

“We jumped out early, but they didn’t quit, they responded and they came back and gave us some problems and we didn’t have the consistent gains and big runs for a lot of the second quarter like we have been having all season,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. “We felt we lost a little intensity after getting the early lead and had a letdown in focus on execution. But the most pleasing thing about the win was the defense.”

Southern’s defense held Line Mountain to just 134 yards, including just 37 in the first half, and forced four turnovers, as the Tigers almost completely shut down Line Mountain’s read option.

“We couldn’t be any happier defensively as far as being able to do a good job of shutting down a team that’s scored a lot of points this year and runs an offense that has some deception,” said Roth. We just stressed being aggressive and being disciplined and playing your area and I thought our guys did a good job at that.

“To the average fan watching the game, they may not realize it, but some of those plays where the quarterback is faking and then keeping the ball, they’re capable of creating seams when they do that, they way they’re attacking your front and people they’re letting go when they’re running that option and they way they’re blocking it up. We stressed all week being disciplined, playing their position, gap control and not getting out of position and worrying about the part of the option that isn’t your responsibility and I thought overall, our guys did a good job executing against that.”

Meanwhile, while Southern’s defense was largely shutting down a Line Mountain offense that has scored over 40 points in each of their four wins this year, the Tiger offense scored on its first four possessions and one three of its first seven offensive plays to build a 28-0 lead after the first quarter.

Liam Klebon hit Jake Rose for a 45-yard touchdown pass on the second play from scrimmage, and then on Southern’s next drive, he hit Colin Sharrow for a 49-yard reception from the Tigers’ own 19 to flip the field, and two plays later, Gavin Garcia went in from 27 yards for his first touchdown.

Braeden Wisloski then ripped off a 32-yard run, and Garcia later found the end zone again from 12 yards to make it 28-0.

But from that point, Southern lost a fumble on its next drive and then the Eagles forced the Tigers to punt on back-to-back drives, and Line Mountain recorded three tackles for loss in the second quarter, including two on Garcia, as the Eagles tackled better against the Tigers than most teams have in recent years, just not enough to make a difference.

“We just didn’t do well enough. We had a blown coverage, we missed a tackle on the first touchdown and didn’t play well enough and that’s the simple fact of the matter,” said Line Mountain coach Brandon Carson. “We knew we had to be pretty much mistake-free, especially on special teams and with turnovers and we weren’t. Hopefully, we can fix some things and keep playing and get a few more wins.”

But coming up empty on back-to-back possession didn’t faze the Tigers. They got their own turnover on an interception by Ian Yoder, who picked off two of the three passes that Line Mountain quarterback Jacob Feese threw on the night, and Garcia later scored his third touchdown just before halftime when he took it 56 yards on a halfback sweep on which no defenders came close to tackling him.

For the game, Garcia turned in a 133-yard rushing performance on 12 carries to go along with his three scores, an average of just over 11 yards per carry. By his lofty standards, it was actually more of an average performance, one that actually brought his yards per carry average down.

But with the defense carrying the night, it was more than enough. With a running clock for the entire second half, Line Mountain managed to drive it into Southern territory on its first possession of the second half that took up over seven minutes, but the drive ended when Yoder picked off Feese for the second time on the evening. Southern capitalized by scoring on its ensuing drive, capped when offensive lineman Jaxson Purnell recovered a fumble in the end zone after Wes Barnes lost it at the 1-yard line.

Yoder then capped Southern’s scoring when he ran it in for a 23-yard touchdown following Line Mountain fumbling the ensuing kickoff following the Tigers’ previous score.

Line Mountain would get on the board with a 23-yard touchdown run by Garret Laudenslager midway through the fourth quarter. The Eagles picked up 70 of their 134 yards on the night on that drive, illustrating how successful the Tiger defense was at stopping Line Mountain’s read-option attack.

“They’re really fast and attacking,” said Carson “Their defensive line really gets off the ball and that usually works to our advantage but they are so quick off the ball and their linebackers fill in so hard that our linemen just didn’t have a chance to get on their blocks.”

While Southern continues its postseason next week, Line Mountain will look to add a few more additional regular-season games to get some more action in during this most unusual season. With just six games under their belts, the Eagles can play up to four more contests.

Southern Columbia 49, Line Mountain 7
Line Mountain (4-2)              0   0  0  7 –  7
Southern Columbia (8-0)     28  7  7  7 – 49

First quarter
11:19 – (SC) Jake Rose 45-yard pass from Liam Klebon (Carter kick), 2-56, :41
8:16 – (SC) Gavin Garcia 27-yard run (Carter kick), 3-76, 1:02
5:13 – (SC) Braeden Wisloski (Carter kick), 2-62, :37
2:17 – (SC) Gavin Garcia 12-yard run (Carter kick), 5-36, 1:34

Second quarter
1:36 – (SC) Gavin Garcia 56-yard run (Carter kick), 5-69, 2:39

Third quarter
1:09 – (SC) Jaxson Purnell fumble recovery in end zone (Carter kick), 7-76, 3:50

Fourth quarter
10:48 – (SC) Ian Yoder 23-yard run (Carter kick), 3-20, 2:13
6:30 – (LM) Garret Laudenslager 23-yard run (Smeltz kick), 7-70, 4:18

                                                    LM                       SC              
First downs                                    7                           16
Rushes-net yards                      40-134                   34-301
Passing yardage                           0                           100
Passing                                     0-3-0-2                   3-4-1-0
Fumbles-lost                                4-2                          2-1
Penalties-yards                           5-45                       5-40

RUSHING: Line Mountain: Jacob Feese (23-68), Garret Laudenslager (8-45-1), Beau Keim (6-16), Nolan Baumert (3-5); Southern Columbia: Gavin Garcia (12-133-3), Wes Barnes (8-78), Braeden Wisloski (4-51-1), Connor Gallagher (3-9), Ian Yoder (2-20-1), Liam Klebon (2-7), Matt Masala (2-3), Trevor Yorks (1-0)

PASSING: Line Mountain: Jacob Feese (0-3-0-0-2); Southern Columbia: Liam Klebon (3-4-100-1-0)

RECEIVING: Line Mountain: None; Southern Columbia: Jake ROse (2-51-1), Colin Sharrow (1-49)

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