By Matt Beltz
In addition to being a typical, end-of-the-season, backyard rivalry, both Central Columbia and Bloomsburg had a lot to play for in their regular season finale on Friday at Bloomsburg University’s Redman Stadium.
Central was playing for potentially the top seed and home field advantage throughout the district playoffs while Bloomsburg, while entering the game in good shape for a playoff berth, needed to win to be assured of a spot in the playoffs and to potentially get a better seed and avoid state power Southern Columbia in the first round.
It was the Panthers that looked like they had more to play for as Bloomsburg got 256 passing yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Ricky Klingerman to top the Blue Jays, 34-12. With the win and Line Mountain’s loss, the Panthers will likely slide into the No. 3 seed in the Class A playoffs and travel to South Williamsport for a rematch of a Week 1 classic that they lost, 34-27, to the Mounties. Central, meanwhile, likely lost its chance at the top seed but will likely still get a home game in the next week’s first round of the Class AA playoffs
“We didn’t even talk about it (playoffs) with the kids,” said Bloomsburg coach Larry Sones. “We had to take care of our own business and we knew if we won the last three games, we felt we’d be in a pretty good situation.”
The 34 points allowed tied a season-high for the Central defense, which also allowed 34 points in a loss to Mount Carmel. The Blue Jays did not give up more than 17 points in any of their other eight games.
“They played pretty good defense tonight, too. Some of the catches that we made were just very athletic,” said Sones. “They had coverage there but I thought our kids made some nice plays. Ricky made some nice throws and that coverage wasn’t that bad, it was right there.”
Although the statistics somewhat evened out in the second half, Bloomsburg dominated the stat sheet and on the field in the first half and its big lead it was able to gain in the first half ended up being the difference in the game. Bloomsburg ran 46 plays in the first half compared to just 20 for Central and picked up 18 first downs to just four for the Blue Jays, who were without their leading rusher in Dain Kowalski.
“Bloom played well defensively. They made plays and we didn’t and that’s the story of the game,” said Central coach Jason Hippenstiel. “There’s no doubt they have some great players that made some great plays that broke our back tonight.”
They just played better than we did tonight, there’s no doubt about it. I would hope this would set a burning fire inside of our guys to play this way and head into the playoffs so I expect to see a very different Central Columbia football team next week.”
Bloomsburg came out of the gates throwing behind their 2,000-yard passer in Klingerman, who threw the ball 16 times and completed 11 passes on the Panthers’ first four drives of the game, which produced three touchdowns. Bloomsburg scored on its first two possessions, going 76 and 84 yards, respectively. A 24-yard run by Evan Ball capped the first drive in just 2:52 and Klingerman threw his first touchdown pass of the night to John Klingerman to cap the second drive in just 2:14 to put the Panthers up 13-0.
From that point, Central answered with a 76-yard touchdown strike from Jordan Thivierge to Dylan Hine on the Blue Jays’ second play from scrimmage on their ensuing drive to cut the lead to 13-6. The teams then exchanged punts on their next two drives before a 10-yard punt by Central gave the Panthers outstanding field position at the Blue Jay 36. Bloomsburg then took 10 plays and 3:51 to go just 36 yards, capped by Ricky Klingerman’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Colby Klingerman to go up 20-6 midway through the second quarter.
Central punted and then Bloomsburg picked off Thivierge of the Bluejays’ next two possessions, as John Klingerman and Zach Ashford each made two great, acrobatic catches to haul in the picks. Ashford’s came with just :36 left and at the Central 43 but that left just enough time for two rushing plays to pick up 22 combined yards and then Klingerman hit Tyler Vincent down the left sideline — throwing the pass from right of the hashmark on the opposite side of the field — with just :03 left to put the Panthers up 27-6 at the break.
The Blue Jays put together an impressive 66-yard drive on their first possession on the second half to cut the lead to 27-12 on Hine’s second touchdown grab of the night from Thivierge. Although the Blue Jay defense would tighten up and stop Bloomsburg three out of four second half possessions, Central would only cross midfield twice again for the remainder of the game after their score.