By Anthony Mitchell
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Southern Columbia is playing its best football when it matters most before the playoffs.
Does it sound familiar?
The Tigers (10-0, 5-0 HAC-III) defeated Warrior Run, 50-19, to finish the regular season undefeated and keep momentum moving in a positive direction heading into a game with an 8-2 Line Mountain squad. Southern Columbia benefitted from solid play in all facets of the game on a night where the regular starters received rest before the postseason.
Out of the Wing-T offense, someone may expect the Tigers to run heavily but the Tigers had the aerial attack working against a Defenders (2-8, 1-4 HAC-III) team coming off of two straight wins.
From their second possession following a opening-drive field goal, Nick Becker went to work stretching the field through the air to keep the Warrior Run defense guessing. After recovering a fumble at the Defenders 26, two runs set up a third-and-short for the Tigers potent offense. Becker threw a pass over the middle to Jake Becker for a 16-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 10-0 lead. Becker delivered a crisp pass to Bryce Parry down the left side of the field for a 67-yard score on the next drive to push the lead to 17-0. Matt Lupold got into the action at the end of the first quarter, getting behind the defense over the middle of the field, creating an open target for Becker for a 42-yard score and a 24-0 advantage after one quarter.
Becker’s play caught the attention of Tigers’ head coach Jim Roth.
“(Becker’s) a good player,” Roth said. “He’s gonna have a real nice career. He’s good enough to start on varsity now. It’s a nice situation with him coming back as a sophomore next year.”
Not to be outdone, Garrett Moser put the Defenders on the board through the air in the second half, completing a pass to Derek Keiser that ended in a 74-yard touchdown and a 37-7 ballgame. Keiser slipped behind the Tigers defense, sprinting up the left sideline and outracing the defense.
For the next few minutes, if you would have blinked or taken your eyes off the action, you would have missed rapid scoring. On the ensuing kickoff following the Keiser reception, Joe Kleman caught the ball at the 18-yard line, found a seam up the middle of the field, and stayed on his feet despite an effort from Defenders kicker Elias George to knock him out of bounds.
After the Tigers defense forced a quick three-and-out, Brad Noll fielded a punt on the run at the Defenders 32. Noll stopped for a split-second before bursting through a hole and into the end zone.
“We played well on special teams,” Roth said. “That’s a good sign going into the playoffs. We’ve got some skill kids that can run, make big plays like that and they were able to do it tonight.”
Mark Blanchard led the Defenders with 148 yards on the ground, including a six-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Mark’s been coming along, since probably week five,” Defenders head coach Mark Burrows said. “He’s a hard runner. I wish we could start the season over with the way he’s running the football right now.”
Blanchard and Mason Schmid scored the final two touchdowns for Warrior Run, with a six-yard score from Blanchard and a 24-yard reception by Schmid. On the pass, Moser threw the ball out in the flat to Schmid who stopped and froze the defense before taking off down the sideline for a score.