When Southern Columbia football coach Jim Roth decided in 1988 to switch to the Delaware Wing-T offense from the Power-I, he did so for several reasons.

First, he had lost the services of Jerry Marks, at the time the state’s all-time leading rusher and scorer, to graduation.

Second, he had several good backs, all of whom were of fairly equal in ability, but none who were in Marks’ class.

Finally, the Wing-T was an offense he was familiar with, having played in it during his playing career at Shikellamy.

That season, the Tigers went 11-2, with a bunch of guys gaining 600 to 700 yards, and Southern has not won fewer than 10 games in a season since.

Ironically, in a season in which the Tigers have perhaps their most dominant runner ever, fullback Henry Hynoski, they may also have their best stable of backs ever.

Not much can be written about Hynoski that hasn’t already. Through eight games, he has 1,033 yards and 24 touchdowns on just 96 carries, as he closes in on the 6,000-yard mark for his career and threatens state scoring records.

But eight other Southern backs have combined for 2,069 yards (258 yards per game), 23 touchdowns and an amazing 9.2 yards per carry. That latter statistic includes the few sacks and numerous times that quarterback Ted Heitzman has taken a knee to avoid running up the score.

Obviously, much of the success of Southern’s backs starts up front, with a talented, big and veteran offensive line.

But the backs themselves are a talented and unselfish bunch. Many of them would not only start for most teams, but be the main man. At Southern, they’re content to play in Hynoski’s shadow, knowing that good things will come if they wait their turn and block a bit while they’re waiting.

“We do have a good group of backs this year, and overall, it’s a group that’s relatively young,” Roth said after the Tigers’ 56-8 win over Loyalsock two weeks ago. “That should work out well for us next year, because it’s going to be one of those years where we’ll be relatively inexperienced in the line.”

“This is the best offense we’ve had since I’ve been playing,” said Hynoski. “Sometimes we just have to turn it loose. We know if everybody executes we’ll do the job, and everybody knows they’ll get their chance.’

Senior Dave Adams, at 5-11, 210 pounds, is a halfback who is primarily a blocking back for a fullback, completely opposite of the usual roles. But the way Adams likes to hit, it’s perfectly fine with him.

In addition to his blocking, he’s a terror on special teams coverage, and provides solid defensive play. As for his running, how about 379 yards on 36 carries (10.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns?

The other halfback spot is usually shared by junior Andrew Wimble or sophomore Austin Carpenter. Wimble ran for 102 yards in last week’s 35-0 win over Clarion, the first 100-yard game by a back other than Hynoski, and he now has 345 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries (10.8 yards per carry). Carpenter brings the per-carry average down a little with his 221 yards on 33 carries (6.7) but makes up for that by swinging out of the backfield for four pass receptions, 113 yards and three touchdoowns.

Heitzman, a junior, has passed for 541 yards and six touchdowns but is also a huge part of the running arsenal, with 236 yards and four touchdowns. At 6-2, 195, he is big enough to run over people and quick enough to reach the corner consistently on quarterback sweeps, a staple of the offense.

Then there is senior Nick Gallinot. An all-state caliber player on defense at linebacker, he is officially the second team fullback behind Hynoski. As such, he gets offensive reps with the second unit, and that’s just not fair — to him or opponents — because at 5-9, 200, Gallinot not only would start for most teams, he’d be an all-state caliber player at that position, too. He has 167 yards and is averaging 9.3 yards per carry. Against Loyalsock, he had two carries for 39 yards, and was simply too much for the Lancers on both runs.
“I turned around and joked to the other coaches that Nick’s the best fullback that never was,” said Roth.

Gallinot’s carries will go up as the Tigers head into the postseason, as they did last season. In the state championship game against Duquesne, he carried 10 times for 80 yards. Considering Hynoski ran for 271 yards in the same game, it’s safe to say the Dukes got no breather from the second-team back.

“I can’t say enough about Dave Adams and Nick Gallinot,” Hynoski said. “They would both be the stars on any other team, and neither one complains. They just like to hit and do what they can to help me and the rest of the team.”

While we’re talking about reserves who would start for any other team, there is sophomore Steve Roth. He has 36 carries for 357 yards (9.9 yards per carry) and five touchdowns, and has provided a number of highlight reel runs. Against Loyalsock, he had a 47-yard touchdown after being initially knocked back three or four yards from the line of scrimmage, then ran 15 yards for a first down from punt formation after a bad snap. He had a 67-yard touchdown called back for a holding penalty against Hughesville.

“We always knew Steve Roth had a lot of natural ability, but now he’s learning how to run with the football and read defenses,” said coach Roth, Steve’s second cousin.

“Austin, Andrew and Steve are all great backs,” said Hynoski. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had a backfield with more talent in it.”

Even the next line is full of talent and has gotten opportunity to show it at the varsity level. Junior Kyle Breech and sophomore Dan Shankweiler have combined for 217 yards and three touchdowns, although Breech has missed a couple of games. Sophomore halfback Matt Miller has 139 yards. After the first junior varsity game, when Miller ran wild against Shamokin, Roth commented to an assistant coach, “Gee, I guess we’ll have to find some time for him this year, too.”

Nice problem to have, eh?