CATAWISSA — Over the recent past, Southern Columbia has been in the routine of starting the second half of regular-season games with a running clock.
That was not the case on Friday, as previously-unbeaten Loyalsock tallied 13 first downs and 207 total yards of offense before the break.
However, the Tigers made the necessary adjustments in the second half, on the way to a 51-15 win.
“We knew that (Loyalsock) was capable of doing what they did in the first half by challenging us,” said Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth, whose team outscored opponents 84-0 in its previous two games. “They used that wide-open scheme with speed and we knew that could present some issues, and it did. Our defense played well in the first two shutouts, but we didn’t see a team with the athletes like this team has.
"The final score doesn’t really indicate it, but it was a very competitive game for a while, and we had our hands full defensively.”
Despite how impressive they looked early on, the Lancers (2-1) left some points on the board in the first 24 minutes, as they were stopped deep in Southern Columbia territory by three sacks — two by linebacker Jake Rose and another by defensive end Derek Berlitz.
“It felt momentum-setting and helped not just the defense, but also the offense to get hyped up and keep making big plays,” Rose said of his first sack, which came on a Loyalsock fourth down on the game’s opening drive. “My focus is being a team player and to help everyone get established for the next play.”
Loyalsock was led by the running efforts of Davion Hill, who gained 126 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
“I really underestimated that running back,” Rose said. “Davion Hill is probably the best running back we’ll go up against this year. He can spin so fast. If you didn’t dive at his ankles and actually hit him hard, he wasn’t going down.”
The Lancers peppered Southern’s secondary as well, as sophomore quarterback Tyler Gee amassed 140 passing yards in the first half.
“We have an inexperienced secondary, and this was the first they played in a varsity game against a passing game like this one," Roth said. "I’m not surprised at all, but disappointed a bit because I thought we became generally unaggressive. I think we were too worried about making mistakes, missing a tackle or getting beat. When you play that way, that’s what ends up happening.
"We adjusted better in the second half, but they really presented some struggles early on. What we learned is that when you play a team like this, you can’t become tentative and lose some confidence like we did.”
Braeden Wisloski came up with a key interception against Gee, ending a red zone drive in a one-possession game. Wisloski injured his left ankle on the play, and did not return.
“That was a very good play,” Rose said of his teammate. “He’ll fight through the injury. He’s strong. But he really set the momentum and lit a fire under us in that second quarter.”
The interception led to a 42-yard touchdown pass by Southern’s Liam Klebon just three plays later, as he hit Rose in stride on a deep slant to give the Tigers a 21-7 lead.
“Liam and I throw the ball a lot at practice,” Rose said. “We don’t normally run those deep passes. This week, we ran long balls, and I think it paid off on that great pass he hit me with.”
Senior running back Gavin Garcia, a Kent State commit, led the Tigers offense. He gained 204 yards on 13 carries, and scored three rushing touchdowns, including a 67-yard house call in the second quarter.
“I was really pleased with our offense,” Roth said. “In the first two weeks, there were some times we had issues upfront picking things up, but I was pleased with the all-around consistency we had on offense tonight."
He also became the fifth player in program history to eclipse 5,000 career rushing yards, joining his brother Gaige, Henry Hynoski, Ricco Rosini and Jerry Marks.
Southern’s starters played three full quarters and the first drive of the fourth quarter, a rare occurrence for a squad that can routinely pull its starters by halftime. That may have been a benefit as the Tigers face Wyoming Area, Mount Carmel and Wyomissing in their next three games.
“It helped the two-way starters a lot,” Rose said of the extra playing time. “We know now that we can go hard for three or four quarters and not have a problem doing it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to do it again in these next few games, so it was nice getting a tougher game under our belt tonight.”
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA 51, LOYALSOCK 15
Loyalsock;7;8;0;0 — 15
Southern Col.;14;21;8;8 — 51
SC-Gavin Garcia 17 run (Isaac Carter kick)
L-Davion Hill 4 run (Evan Anderson kick)
SC-Wes Barnes 20 run (Liam Klebon kick)
SC-Jake Rose 42 pass from Klebon (Klebon kick)
SC-Garcia 67 run (pass failed)
L-Rian Glunk 50 pass from Tyler Gee (Jerval Weeks-Shuler pass from Gee), 2:14.
SC-Garcia 3 run (Garcia run)
SC-Barnes 2 run (Matt Masala run)
SC-Masala 3 run (Barnes run)
RUSHING — Loyalsock: Davion Hill 19-126, TD; Rian Glunk 1-3; Team 2-(-3); Tyler Gee 13-(-21). Southern Columbia: Gavin Garcia 13-204, 3 TDs; Wes Barnes 11-74, 2 TDs; Matt Masala 6-36, TD; Trevor Yorks 3-28; Louden Murphy 3-24; Braeden Wisloski 3-21; Carter Madden 2-11; Logan Fosse 1-2; Blake Wise 1-(-5).
PASSING — Loyalsock: Gee 8-17-1, 142 yards, TD. Southern Columbia: Klebon 4-5-0, 94 yards, TD.
RECEIVING — Loyalsock: Glunk 5-81, TD; Jerval Weeks-Shuler 1-37; Hill 1-16; Jaylen Andrews 1-8. Southern Columbia: Jake Rose 2-53, TD; Garcia 1-40; Barnes 1-1.