By Marion Valanoski
For The Daily Item
Jim Roth and the Southern Columbia coaching staff emphasized the importance of special teams play in this week’s practices.
That focus was a huge factor in Friday night’s game against Shamokin.
The Tigers took advantage of a short field following two great punt returns to jump out to an 11-point lead and never looked back. They beat the Indians 45-6 in torrential rain, fog and lightning that held up the game for over 40 minutes.
“We’ve been putting more and more emphasis on special teams and we had some great punt returns that helped put us in great position,” Roth said.
Joe Kleman provided the first big play in the opening quarter with a 38-yard return to the Shamokin 34. Five plays later Taylor Young found Bryce Parry behind the Indians secondary for a 26-yard TD pass.
The Tigers took advantage of a 15-yard penalty and a 7-yard completion to Kleman that pushed the ball deep into Shamokin territory. The drive bogged down, but Dylan Swank calmly booted a 38-yard field goal for an 11-0 edge with 36.4 seconds left in the quarter.
The Tigers came up with a huge defensive play just 12 seconds later when Garet Sosnoski picked off a Tucker Yost pass and returned the ball 14 yards for a score. Swank’s conversion upped the lead to 18-0.
“I was pleased with our defense and Sosnoski’s interception was a big lift,” Roth said.
“It not only extended our lead but had to deflate their team as well.”
The Tigers went 88 yards in 10 plays to increase the margin to 25-0. Young threw a big 45-yard completion to Kleman, and, after a holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 25, the senior quarterback connected with Parry for 18 yards to the 7. Adam Feudale raced up the middle on the next snap for a 25-0 lead.
Another great punt return set up the final points of the opening half. Parry returned the ball 17 yards to the 28, and Young soon hit Blake Marks for 19. Three plays later Lupold went over the right side for a 2-yard score, making it 32-0.
“Shamokin was playing the run tough and we had decided earlier we wanted to throw the ball more to get more balanced offensively, Roth said. “Taylor did a nice job of throwing the ball considering the fog, and our receivers ran great routes.”
The Tigers put the game into the mercy rule when Marks ran for a 1-yard TD and Swank was successful on the PAT.
Shamokin averted the shutout when Julian Dietrick ran for a 4-yard touchdown
Southern completed the scoring when Jacob Potter ran for a 19-yard touchdown.
The Tigers defense held the Indians to just 56 yards on the ground. The winners rolled up 224 rushing with Matt Jeremiah leading their talented stable of runners in the SCA backfield with 44 yards followed by Lupold and Feudale, who each chipped in 28.
Kleman contributed 51 yards through the air on two receptions, while Parry added 44.