The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 20, 2013

Harold Raker's column on high school football: Drastic change pays off for Tigers

I know that none of you can think of former NFL coach Jim Mora without having his rant of "Playoffs! You kiddin' me? Playoffs!" attach itself to your brain. It's worse than a Barry Manilow tune. Well, maybe not.

How about the name Jim Roth. Of course winning teams and state championships come to mind when you think about the 30-year Southern Columbia head coach.

But how about that defense?

Roth was the defensive coordinator before succeeding Andy Ulicny as head coach. Roth has never strayed from running the defense which has been so successful. That's right, the Tigers' vaunted 4-4. They play it so well that, it almost seems like they invented it.

We get so used to watching the Tigers shut teams down with their four linemen and four linebackers that we don't really pay attention to it.

At least I didn't, and at least one radio crew doing last week's game at Mount Carmel, also didn't because, against the Red Tornadoes, Roth's team switched to a 4-3 just for that game -- for now.

I can't speak for the radio people, who mentioned Southern's 4-4 defense a couple of times, but I was busy keeping play-by-play and all of the statistics. Sure it's an excuse, but it's all I've got.

So in my post-game talk with Roth, when he began talking about his reason for using the 4-3, I tried not to act surprised.

And what Roth said about the decision made perfect sense, especially after the Tigers had suffocated the Red Tornadoes' no-huddle attack, limiting them to negative seven yards rushing in a 45-7 victory.

"We switched to a 4-3 zone because of their spread," Roth said. "We had to run something like that. If we would have played in our base defense we felt we would have been hurt with the pass at times. We'd have been OK against their run, but we would have been hurt in the passing.

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