SELINSGROVE — When late coaching legend George Curry retired for the first time, he provided some color commentary on local television.
“I got to know him a lot more then because he did some of our state playoff games (on TV broadcasts),” Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth said. “We used to talk for those games, and got to know each other pretty well.”
On Saturday, when his Tigers clinched the program’s 19th state championship berth with a 42-14 win over Bishop McDevitt (District 12), Roth matched Curry for the most wins by a high school football coach in state history (455).
“My dad played (for Coach Roth),” Tigers senior linebacker Wade Kerstetter said. “So many that I grew up around and with played for him. It’s awesome to be a part of the group that helped him tie the record.”
Roth was honored after the game at Selinsgrove’s Bolig Memorial Field with a crystal award from the Southern Columbia booster club. He gave a speech to the crowd before several of his seniors hoisted him onto their shoulders to celebrate with his team.
Roth said that he learned a lot from Curry, noting how rare it is that the record-setting coaches would be contemporaries from the same area. Curry coached at Lake-Lehman for four seasons; Berwick for four decades over two stints; and Wyoming Valley West for three years.
“We never played them on a regular basis (the Tigers and Bulldogs were slated to open the 2020 season and again in 2021), but we went there for 7-on-7s, junior high games and jayvee games. He was a person I learned a lot from,” said Roth, who has a career winning percentage of .873 (455-64-2). “We did talk Xs and Os sometimes, but what I learned the most was the structure and discipline on how to run a successful program.”
Roth’s 455 victories are all at Southern Columbia, and he certainly didn’t expect to have so much success as the Tigers’ head coach when he took over for Andy Ulicny in 1984. Roth has led the Tigers to a record 10 PIAA championships, as well as the unprecedented 19 state final appearances. The Tigers are in the midst of a 59-game winning streak.
“(The record) would have been hard to imagine (in 1984); it would just seem so totally out of reach,” Roth said. “It hasn’t really sunk in. It’s not about the personal thing for me. Between all the guys that have coached with us, the support we’ve gotten in the community, the players — there have been so many people that have played a role in it.
“It’s hard to put into words right now.”