By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
If Las Vegas oddsmakers had posted Friday night’s District 4 Class A semifinal between Line Mountain and Southern Columbia, well, let’s just say the Eagles would have been getting a bunch of points.
And in the first half, those who took the Tigers and the points were already looking for a way to make up for their losses.
Coming off a rather lackluster loss last week at Tri-Valley, Line Mountain took a two-score halftime lead and even quickly answered an early third-quarter TD by Southern to regain the two-touchdown lead with 5:17 left in the third.
In one of the most exciting high school games you will see, the teams slugged it out until the final seconds with the favored Tigers eking out a 28-21 win in front of the relieved Tiger faithful.
Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth said, “It was a great win. I think this is one of the best games we’ve had with them in terms of just closeness and intensity and back-and-forth. I’ve gotta give them credit, I thought their kids were really well prepared scheme-wise and for us out-sizing them up front, I thought they played really tough up front, and that was a key.”
The Tigers (11-0) will meet South Williamsport in next Friday’s final while the Eagles, behind a monster performance by senior quarterback Cole Rickert, ended their season at 8-3.
Line Mountain coach Rodney Knock said, “It came down to playing with desire and (our kids) did. We came out fighting and I told them to leave everything on the field. I told them I’d carry them off that field if I had to.
“They did that. I couldn’t ask for anything more from them. I’m really proud of them.”
The Eagles defense forced the Tigers to punt on their first two possessions, then jumped on top when Rickert (256 yards passing, a passing TD and a rushing TD) hit senior halfback Dillan Michael on a 51-yard seam pass for a TD with the third play of the second quarter. That score was set up by a 27-yard connection from Rickert to senior wide receiver Jeremy Renn, who was later injured and returned only briefly.
Michael (four catches, 122 yards, one TD) then made a big play from his cornerback spot, picking off a Taylor Young pass (only Young’s third INT of the season). The Eagles capitalized with a seven-play 54-yard drive capped by a 26-yard run by Codi Morris, who lined up at quarterback. That made it 14-0 Eagles with 6:25 left in the half. The Tigers got back into the game when they came out of the halftime locker room to drive 69 yards on 13 plays (in 5 minutes, 55 seconds) with Adam Feudale getting the Tigers on the board on a one-yard run to make it 14-7.
What happened next put everyone in Tiger Stadium on notice that the home team was in for a battle.
Rather than let the Tigers get comfortable, Rickert hit Michael on a 53-yard pass down the middle to the 11. Rickert picked up 10, then bulled over left guard for the TD as the Eagles went back up 21-7.
Roth said, “That was frustrating and that was kind of a character check. After that happened it was like ‘now we have to pick it back up again.’”
Rickert said, “That was one of the big things. In the past couple years, when they would get a big score, immediately we hung our heads. We knew they were going to have big plays, the big thing all week was when they make big plays just keep believing, know we are going to come back.”
Southern brought pressure on an Eagle punt and got a short kick to take over at the SC 46. Aided by a pair of first-down runs by Young, Southern scored on an eight-play drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters to get to 21-14. Another three-and-out by the Southern defense, set up the tying TD by freshman halfback Blake Marks.
The son of Tiger football and wrestling great Jerry Marks went around the right side for a 35-yard score and the game was tied at 21.
“That (touchdown) was unlike anything I’ve ever done before,” Blake Marks said. “It was a big part of the game and the team needed me. There was great blocking by the guys up front.”
Line Mountain drove to the Tigers’ 26 but junior linebacker Garet Sosnoski sacked Rickert to give the ball back to his offense and three plays later Feudale caught a screen pass from Young and weaved his way through the defense for 44-yard TD giving the Tigers their first and only lead of the night with 3:18 left.
Rickert was not finished, however, and he drove the Eagles to the Southern 35 before a pass thrown under heavy pressure from linebacker Mitch Stanziale was deflected and picked off by Matt Klock to end the game.