---- — By The Daily Item
FUN SEASON: Line Mountain's senior first-year starter at quarterback, Cole Rickert, got to shine this season as the Eagles opened up the passing game while using both their vaunted dive-option and spread attacks. They went back to the option more in the District 4 Class A semifinal Friday at Southern Columbia, but still aired it out as Rickert threw for 256 yards and a touchdown.
Rickert, who will attend Lycoming College but not play football, added, "I would have preferred to win, but we played a great game. No one gave us a chance, we played to the end. It ended the way I wanted to, other than the loss.
"Tonight they gave us some looks and all the receivers made plays and the line blocked for me. It was fun to play in," he said.
WEARING THEM DOWN: Both coaches, Southern's Jim Roth and Line Mountain's Rodney Knock, agreed that the Tigers' advantage in their number of one-way players wore down the Eagles in the second half.
"They did a great job in the second half and wore us down. Our senior corps of kids, all 14 of them, give or take a couple, were on the field 95 percent of the time," Knock said.
ONE LAST SHOT: The Eagles led 14-0 and 21-7 but found themselves behind 28-21 when junior fullback Adam Feudale scored on a 44-yard screen pass from senior Taylor Young with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left in the game.
Rickert drove the Eagles from their own 20-yard line all the way to the Tigers' 35 before finally seeing their season end when Southern linebacker Mitch Stanziale hit Rickert as he threw the ball and it was deflected and picked off by Matt Klock, on the 13th play of the Eagles' final drive.
A big play on the drive came with the Eagles facing a fourth-down-and-three at their own 37. Rickert faked the dive, stepped back and hit a wide-open Dillan Michael for a first down at the Eagles' 45. Southern's Luke Rarig caught Michael to prevent a TD.
Rickert said, "That was a great play call by Coach Knock."
He said both Knock and defensive coordinator Josh Daniels did a great job of putting the Eagles in position to win. "We made plays all over the place and it came down to the end," Rickert said.
LUCKY AND GOOD: Everyone knows the old saying about it better to be lucky than good, but the Tigers, who, at 11-0, are good, got the daily-double of luck on the winning touchdown.
To start with, Young misheard the play call. It was supposed to be a sweep, but he thought it was called as a screen, so he ran the wrong play.
Then, before the snap, a Southern lineman jumped off-sides, but there was no call.
NO PANIC: His team trailing 14-0, Southern's Roth might have been tempted to light his players up in the halftime locker room. Roth doesn't operate that way and his calm demeanor may have had a role in the way the Tigers came out of that locker room and put on a scoring drive to get back in the game.
"What we didn't play our best football in the first half and Line Mountain really wanted it and they were putting it to us," Roth said.
He said he stayed calm, but asked the players, "Do you want to continue playing this season or do you want your season to end after 10-0?"
Roth said there were two character checks for his team, the first in responding favorably to the 14-0 deficit, and then rebounding after the Eagles answered the Tigers' first score with one of their own to go up 21-7.
DOMINATED: With the entire season on the line, the Bloomsburg Panthers got off to a slow start on Friday night at South Williamsport and never fully recovered. The Panthers went three-and-out on their first six possessions against the Mounties. Going into halftime, the Panthers usually potent offense -- led by quarterback Ricky Klingerman -- mustered just 16 total yards of offense.
The Panthers trailed at one point 24-0. It wasn't until midway through the third quarter that Klingerman started stringing passes together, ending the night with 187 yards passing after having only 14 through the first two quarters.
Klingerman threw a nice pass to Zach Ashford to avoid the shutout and scored on a 1-yard sneak up the gut in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late for Bloomsburg as South Williamsport won its first playoff game since 1997 on the legs of Brandon Stonge, who ran for a team-high 222 yards and three touchdowns en route to becoming the Mounties all-time rushing leader.
BETTER THE SECOND TIME? With the exception of Athens vs. Danville, all of this Friday's playoff games are rematches of earlier games this season.
In the Class AAA final, Milton (7-4) travels to Selinsgrove (8-3) In the Class AA semis, Athens (9-2) is at Danville (9-2) while Mount Carmel (7-4) heads to Montoursville (8-3).
South Williamsport travels to Suthern Columbia (11-0) for the Class A title.
All games are at 7 p.m.