Southern Col. seniors chase unbeaten careers

A group of Southern Columbia football players play a game during media day Saturday.

ELYSBURG — Senior Wade Kerstetter stood in the Charles Nesbit Gymnasium on a rainy Saturday morning.

The Southern Columbia linebacker can now see a chance to experience his final season as a Tigers football player.

“It definitely feels (a little bit normal), since school started — school is a lot different, of course,” said Kerstetter, who like the rest of the Southern Columbia senior class has a chance to finish their football careers undefeated.

Another big difference that was apparent as Southern Columbia held its football meeting day was all that will be missing in the 2020 season for the Tigers. Four players went off to the Big Ten — the school’s all-time leading rusher, receiver and tackler, and last year’s quarterback — another to New Hampshire, and still another to wrestle at Brown University. All but one starter from an offensive line that didn’t allow a sack last season also graduated.

Nobody is feeling bad for Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth, nor should they.

“Those guys are gone, and they deserve a lot of credit, but its our turn,” said halfback Gavin Garcia, who had 1,659 yards rushing and 28 TDs last season. “We’re going to make the most out of whatever season we have. These guys have been waiting their turn, working hard against last year’s first team, ready to prove themselves.”

One would think the pandemic would have put the Tigers behind as well, but Roth said with the rules put in place by the state and the PIAA, Southern Columbia worked more on the field than than they have in most offseasons.

“Actually, it didn’t turn out too badly. Between the PIAA and the state government allowing us to start out-of-season workouts in June, that was a big plus. We did a lot of onfield work from the middle of June until Aug. 24th when we were allowed to start practice,” Roth said.

That seems to be the consensus from most coaches this season, Selinsgrove coach Derek Hicks also said that his team was a little bit ahead in that respect as well.

Where teams seem to be behind comes from the loss of the 7-on-7s during May and June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“You feel it the most in the defensive recognition of formations, and in the passing game, a lot of that comes from 7-on-7 work,” Roth said. “What we lost is a whole lot of reps against other teams in 7-on-7 work. At the very least, it’s beneficial for your linebackers, and your secondary to recognize offensive formations.

“It’s also beneficial for your offensive passing game, just to get those reps together against another team.”

With a young quarterback missing out on those reps can present a problem, but Roth was quick to mention all the work sophomore Greyson Shaud has put in this offseason to become the possible starter for the Tigers.

“He’s going up to the Wilkes-Barre area to work with a coach,” Roth said. “You can see his development in his footwork, right away.”

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