The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 19, 2013

Southern overcomes slow start in big victory

By Marian Valanoski
For The Daily Item

— COAL TOWNSHIP — It was a wake-up call that sent a mild tremor throughout the Southern Columbia sideline and it came from the most unlikely source to date, but it got the visitor's attention.

Instead of basking of what usually is a one-to-two touchdown lead in the opening quarter, the Tigers found themselves in a real “dogfight” Friday night at Kemp Memorial Stadium as the out-manned Shamokin Area High School football team had the six-time PIAA state champions on their heels looking for answers while the Indians put themselves in position to do what few teams have been able to accomplish this year, and that’s take a lead, much less, push the Tigers around on the field.

It happened albeit but for a short period of time.

The Tigers righted their ship midway through the opening period, and took advantage of some unfortunate bad luck on the part of the Indians, to score what would be the only points they would need when Zach Tillett caught a 33-yard touchdown pass en route to leading Southern past Shamokin Area, 56-0, in what certainly was a more competitive game than the final score might indicate.

“Shamokin came out and had us off-balance with the shotgun,” Tigers’ head coach Jim Roth said. “That can be a neutralizer and it was a good experience for our players to see and react to and we were able to make changes as the game went on and counter what they were trying to do.”

Quarterback Sean McLaughlin deftly moved the Indians from their own  nine out to the 49 two option fakes that picked up 25 yards plus a 15-yard penalty that advanced the ball out to the 49. On a fourth and four from the Tigers 46, Shamokin picked up a big first down when Southern jumped offsides and the senior signal-caller deftly weaved his way through the defense for an 11-yard gain to the 29.

Unfortunately, what has been the case all season for the Indians, a chop-block penalty and a 13-yard sack took the home team out of scoring position and forced the team to punt the ball away.

The Tigers went quickly to work from their own 38 and after Matt Lupold bounced outside for 13 yards and Nate Hunter picked up seven to the Indians’ 44 as Southern went to a no-huddle offense. Two plays later, Adam Feudale broke loose for seven yards to the 33 where on the next play Nick Becker spotted Tillett behind the Shamokin Area secondary and the former SAHS player, who transferred to Southern this past spring, waltzed into the end zone with a 33-yard scoring strike. Luke Rarig’s conversion kick provided the Tigers with a 7-0 lead that carried into the next period.

Southern found itself with great field position following a short punt that gave the visitors possession on the home team 30. It appeared as if the Tigers would strike pay dirt again but on third down from the 20 McLaughlin intercepted Becker inside his own eight and returned the ball 5 yards to the Southern 34 ending the opening quarter.

“We haven’t had too many challenges in the first quarter that I can think of but Shamokin played us tough,” Roth said. “There was no panic and we were able to eventually take control. In my opinion it was a positive situation for us in how we handled what was happening.”

 The Indians were unable to take advantage of the pass interception and a one-yard punt provided the Tigers with solid field position again. Only this time, fans in the second period got to see Southern Columbia football at its best when the offense and defense are clicking on all cylinders.

Becker found Lupold out of the backfield on the first possession of the second period for a 56-yard completion down to the 10 where on the next snap the senior tailback bolted 10 yards for the touchdown. Rarig’s second of six perfect conversions put the tally at 14-0.

Southern took eight plays to march 59 yards capped by Lupold’s two-yard TD scamper and increase the advantage to 21-0 with Raig coming up with a clutch 27-yard reception on the drive.

The Indians gambled again on fourth down their next time on offense but the Tigers’ defense held its own and Robert Delbo stopped McLaughlin for a three-yard loss to set up the offense with the ball at the 26. Rarig exhibited his leaping ability on the first play of the next scoring drive when he leaped high in the air to snap a high throw for a 17-yard completion to the nine and on the next play Cody Pavlick was wide open in the middle for a nine-yard touchdown and the lead had ballooned to 28-0.

Misfortune struck the Indians on the ensuing kickoff when the ball was fumbled and the Tigers recovered at the 17. Two Feudale carries advanced the pigskin to the 1 where Nate Hunter bulled his way to paydirt giving the Tigers a 35-0 lead and eventually putting the contest under the PIAA Mercy Rule.

“We were able to take advantage of short fields and good field position to quickly put points on the board,” Roth said. “McLaughlin made a nice break on the interception and they really gave us a challenge for the whole first quarter.”

Southern completed the scoring in the game as Blake Marks scored on a 10-yard run n the third period and Brad Noll contributed TD runs of eight and five yards.”

Shamokin Area head coach Cov Yisrael pointed out the glimpses of success exhibited by the Indians in the first quarter are signs of good things to come.

“We are seeing glimpses of he potential of these players,” the Indians’ mentor said. “But again, we hurt ourselves by making mistakes that we’ve seen all too many times this year and how big the little mistakes can be.”