By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
CATAWISSA — Like most coaches facing Southern Columbia, especially this season, first-year Bloomsburg coach Mike Kogut is looking for answers which he may never get.
“(Southern Columbia) is the most balanced I have seen them in years and can hurt you on the ground and in the air,” said Kogut, who faced the Tigers for several years while an assistant coach at Mount Carmel and once as the head coach at Tri-Valley.
“They have weapons everywhere and strength up front. Their offense is like a well-oiled machine,” he added.
Bloomsburg visits Southern on Friday night in a Heartland Athletic Conference Division I match-up which is also a huge rivalry game for the neighboring schools.
On top of that, both teams are looking for a bunch of District 4 Class A points with a win.
The Tigers (6-0, 3-0 HAC-III) are currently tied atop the standings with fellow unbeaten Wellsboro while the Panthers (4-2, 3-1) are fourth, the final playoff spot.
That aspect of the match-up has not escaped Southern coach Jim Roth and his staff. “We look at it like that, we have to. If we want to be the top seed in the district, we have to win out. That’s the way we are looking at it because we are expecting (Wellsboro not to lose,” he said.
He added, “If (Wellsboro) wins out and we lose a game, most likely we are not going to outpoint them and it’s always nice to get a home game, with the potential of two home games, which we’ve been able to do most years.”
The Tigers (ranked No. 1 in the state in Class A by Pennsylvania Football News) exploded on offense again last week against a pretty good Selinsgrove defense, with junior quarterback Nick Becker passing for 219 yards and four touchdowns and senior fullback Adam Feudale rushing for 179 yards on just eight carries.
If that weren’t enough to have the Seals on the ropes, the Tigers shut down the Selinsgrove offense for most of the game, aside from a 75-yard TD bomb on the Seals’ first play.
Kogut said, “They don’t get enough credit defensively. They have speed and strength and they give you no lanes to run. Their pass defense is solid also.”
He added, “We have a major challenge and will need to be flawless in all three areas of the game. Getting some turnovers will also be key.”
Roth said the biggest concern about Bloomsburg is that, similar to the Tigers’ season-opening opponent, Pius X, and week-three foe Mount Carmel, the Panthers also run a primarily wide-open offense and talented senior quarterback Ricky Klingerman has not only passed well, but has been successful running the ball.
Roth had high praise for Klingerman’s receiving corps, including the quarterback’s cousin, Colby Klingerman, and Zach Ashford at the wide receiver spots and an experienced tight end in senior Cole Frye.
“This is probably the fastest team we have played since Pius and we look at it like it is a good kind of midseason challenge as far as our defense and seeing how we match up against the speed they have,” Roth said.
He said playing good defense is vital against a team like Bloomsburg. You want to try to prevent the big play,” he added.