By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
HAMBURG -- Before the Southern Columbia players ran out onto the field to celebrate, assistant coach Jenn Stine yelled for them to gather around her for a second as she held a small plastic bin.
She quickly opened it to reveal a bunch of Hershey chocolate bars. The players all laughed and smiled as they each reached in to grab one.
Every player obviously appreciated the symbolism as Hershey is where the Tigers are headed next.
Southern Columbia left Hamburg High School with a thrilling 1-0 victory over Tulpehocken on a chilly Tuesday night, earning the program's first state championship game appearance.
The Tigers will face District 7 runner-up Greensburg Central Catholic, a 2-0 winner over Shady Side, on Friday at 5 p.m. at HersheyPark Stadium.
The win marked the 13th shutout for Southern Columbia, tied for most in the Valley this season.
Southern Columbia (22-1-1) scored the lone goal of the night early in the first half. Teanna Shutt sent a great pass from about 20 yards to just a few yards from the goal. That's where Maddie Stabinski made a great heads-up play.
"I saw that it was going over Bailey's (Bzdak) head and I knew I had to put it in because you could tell from the beginning that they were going to be a tough team," Stabinski said.
The senior midfielder took it off just one bounce and fired to the top-middle of the net to score with 34:47 to play in the first half.
A few minutes later, Bzdak looked as if she was going to put in a huge second goal when she fired a high shot from only a few yards out, only to see it hit off the center of the crossbar. The ball then went straight up and down, bouncing in front of an open net, but was quickly booted out of harm's way by the Tulpehocken back line.