By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
CATAWISSA — So that’s what it’s like when things go haywire for Southern Columbia.
The Tigers made mush of 10 opponents in the regular season, prompting folks to talk about where this year’s team ranked in the storied program’s annals.
Then Friday, in their playoff opener, they hurt themselves with penalties, turnovers and a general lack of intensity — and they paid the price.
Southern battled Bloomsburg deep into the third quarter of their District 4 Class A semifinal, until senior fullback Adam Feudale scored the last three of his five touchdowns in a seven-minute span and the Tigers ran away with a 49-14 win.
“You have a Bloomsburg team that has a talented group of skill players and they lay it on the line with nothing to lose and it turns into a struggle,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. “We hung in there. We weren’t as sharp as we have been. With everything that went on and maybe how we weren’t all that happy with many of the performances along the way, you still come out with a comfortable win. That’s the bottom line.”
The Tigers (11-0) were penalized nine times for 115 yards (five personal fouls), fumbled the ball four times and were fortunate to lose just one (which resulted in a touchback), and threw a pair of interceptions. However, the two teams played to a 50-13 final on Oct. 11, which meant all of the Tigers’ problems Friday basically cost them a point each way.
It wasn’t that cut-and-dried, though, as the Panthers (6-5) were within 21-14 with eight minutes to play in the third quarter. They also intercepted a pass down 14 points late in the third.
“We didn’t put a lot of pressure on ourselves this week in practice,” said Bloomsburg star quarterback Ricky Klingerman. “We didn’t talk about it a lot. We were just going to go in and play hard. We knew what we were up against, and we just said we were going to give it everything. That’s what we did.”
Southern overcame a holding call and a personal foul penalty on its first series, driving 69 yards in 18 plays for the lead. Along the way, Luke Rarig converted third-and-20 with a 27-yard grab in double coverage.
Rarig made another huge conversion (third-and-12) in traffic for a 35-yard gain on the Tigers’ second series, setting up a would-be touchdown. The ball was fumbled into the end zone on the ensuing play and recovered by Bloomsburg’s Colby Klingerman. On the next drive, a 27-yard catch over two defenders led to a Nate Hunter TD and a 14-0 Southern lead.
Bloomsburg answered with a 34-yard pump-and-go scoring pass from Ricky Klingerman to Colby Klingerman along the left sideline. Less than a minute later, Zach Ashford intercepted a tipped pass that put the Panthers at the Southern 33 with 2:26 left in the half.
Bloomsburg lost three yards on successive runs and threw two incomplete passes to turn over the ball on downs. The Tigers needed far less than the 87 seconds remaining to go up 21-7 as Feudale broke a 40-yard touchdown.
“Obviously, it is tough,” Ricky Klingerman said of the late-half sequence. “We’re just trying to get the ball into our playmakers’ hands there, but they were picking up on the deep game with (Colby) and backing off with their corners. So they were taking the big play away and we just couldn’t make it work with the short stuff.”
A penalty derailed Southern’s first possession of the second half, and, with the help of a roughing-the-passer call on third-and-6, Bloomsburg made it 21-14. Cousins Ricky Klingerman and Colby Klingerman hooked up on a 27-yard rocket screen. The passer finished with 166 yards and the two scores, while the receiver caught five balls for 98.
“It’s always a concern when you have a team with the skill players that are capable of making that big play and scoring quick,” said Roth.
Feudale, who rushed for 108 yards and two TDs in the first half, did some of his best work in the second half when he gained just 72 on 10 carries. He popped scoring runs of 10, 14 and 25 yards to buoy an uneven offense.
“I felt like, near the end of the third quarter, we started to pick it up some and wear them down a little bit,” Feudale said. “Especially now, in playoffs, you’ve got to be thinking that every game is your last game. You’ve got to keep your legs moving and keep going because you never know when your last play is going to be.”
The Tigers host South Williamsport, a 42-28 winner over Wellsboro, in next week’s district final. The Mounties’ only loss was at Southern, 48-14, on Sept. 20.
“You usually have some adversity somewhere along the way,” said Roth. “We didn’t have too much in the regular season but (Friday) might be a good experience for us moving forward, actually. It’s one to grow from.”