It might have been two days after Halloween, but Southern Columbia still found a way to top the charts and win the scariest performance of the year. Unfortunately, Towanda was on the other side of the field and learned quickly why the Tigers are ranked #1 in the country according to various polls.
Southern won the playoff game 75-0, which was just two points away from breaking the school record for points in a game, to advance in the District IV Class 2A playoff bracket.
The way the Tigers started off on offense would have been enough to make both Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger wet their pants. At first it appeared that the home team might break the school record for points in the first half alone. Then on top of that, the performance by the defense would’ve been enough to make Chucky drop his knife, and leave the doll crying for a pacifier.
The Tigers (11-0) collected another Mercy Rule victory as they took down the Black Knights (3-8) in about as dominant of a fashion as one could ever see. “Even though we knew coming out that we would be the heavy favorites, it was good to see that our guys came out focused. They played hard and started off about as strongly on both of sides of the ball as you can ask for as a coach,” said SCA coach Jim Roth.
The two-time defending PIAA champions scored on seven of their first eight plays on offense.
“That start on offense was just crazy,” said sophomore running back Gavin Garcia. “Then for the defense to put up another shutout and our backups to score multiple touchdowns, it was just a great team performance all around.”
On the first play from scrimmage, Preston Zachman found Julian Fleming wide-open behind the Towanda secondary for a 64-yard touchdown pass. After forcing a three-and-out, Southern Columbia took a two-touchdown lead on a two-play drive. Gaige Garcia picked up 12 yards to move the sticks on the first play, then his younger brother Gavin scored on a 37-yard sprint.
The Tigers took a 21-0 lead just a little over four minutes into the game when Fleming caught a quick pass and outraced the defense for a 44-yard touchdown. That was the final pass that Southern threw in the contest.
Gavin Garcia, who scored touchdowns on all three of his carries, put the Tigers in front 28-0 when he dashed 71 yards on the first play of that possession with 5:21 left in the opening quarter.
His third touchdown came on the first play of the next drive on a 35-yard carry. Gaige Garcia then closed out the quarter when he ran one in from 74 yards out with less than a minute to play in the first quarter giving Southern Columbia an astounding 42-0 lead.
With 9:50 left in the first half, Gaige Garcia scored on the first play of another drive. This time the senior took a handoff and ran for a career long run of 92 yards to the end zone to extend the lead to 49-0. “Our goal is to be physical and make the biggest holes that we can for our running backs. Some of us have our careers coming to an end soon, so we don’t want to end with any regrets,” said senior offensive tackle Cam Haladay.
On the final drive of the first half, fullback Ty Roadarmel was rewarded with some carries. The senior ran up the gut four consecutive times for 63 yards, and his score came on a 14-yard run making the halftime score 56-0. “It’s certainly nice to have as many options as we do on offense. We have guys at every position that we can count on to make plays for us,” Roth said.
In total during the first half, the Tigers offense scored eight times on just 12 offensive snaps. The four times that they didn’t reach pay dirt all resulted in first downs. On defense, the starting unit held the Black Knights to negative-29 yards of offense and one first down before being pulled with more than three minutes remaining in the first half.
In the second half, the Tiger reserves did their part to preserve the shutout. Wes Barnes, Matt Masala, and Trevor Yorks each scored touchdowns. The defense allowed just one player to gain positive yardage on the ground over the final 24 minutes of the quick running clock due to the Mercy Rule being in play.
If not for a seven-yard carry late in the fourth quarter, the Tigers defense would have held the Black Knights to negative yardage for the game. “From the first play we knew that this team was not going to get far on us. We just had that mentality,” said defensive tackle Dyer Stine who had two sacks in the win. “It’s really fun playing with these guys. I love the attitude and excitement they bring to the field.”
Southern Columbia as the top-seed will host No. 5 seed North Penn-Mansfield, who beat Wellsboro 17-14, in next week’s semi-final on Saturday night inside Tiger Stadium. The other semi-final will have Mount Carmel Area traveling to Troy.