CATAWISSA­­ — Southern Columbia’s run toward a 16th straight District 4-A championship was never really in any doubt Friday, but the Tigers nonetheless got a wakeup call, according to head coach Jim Roth.

And you know what? Roth was grateful for it.

Senior fullback Henry Hynoski carried 19 times for 209 yards and three touchdowns, and the Tigers had 454 yards rushing in their 49-31 win over Line Mountain, but the Eagles did some things to the Tigers no one else had done.

Like take a lead.

Twice.

And run consistently against Southern’s defense, which was giving up less that 30 yards rushing and two yards per carry.

“I didn’t feel real confident coming into this game,” said Roth. “This was the first time all season we really got a challenge. Even in some of our other undefeated years, we’ve had some challenges and close games, and that hadn’t happened this year. This was a good football team. They played very physical and they came out and did some things to us nobody has done. We needed that.”

But in Hynoski, the Tigers have what Roth calls, “the X factor.”

“Whe you get Henry in the mix, it changes things,” Roth said. “Sooner or later, he’s going to run over people, plus he’s definitely more than just a fullback. He’s got some speed that other fullbacks just don’t have.”

The Eagles (9-3) behind the confident quarterbacking of Clark Morris, sent a clear message on their first series, driving 71 yards in nine plays to take a 6-0 lead. Morris threw a 49-yard pass to Scott Swineford to put the Eagles at the nine, and Dustin Letterman scored the first of his four touchdowns on a three-yard run with 7:45 left in the first quarter.

Southern answered with a 13-play, 86-yard scoring drive, with Dave Adams scoring on a seven-yard run, but Line Mountain came right back. A 31-yard option pass from Tom Miller to Letterman and a 23-yard run by Morris set up a seven-yard run by Letterman with 11:27 left in the second quarter, making it 12-7.

That was enough for Hynoski. On Southern’s first play from scrimmage on the next series, he broke a 74-yard touchdown run down the sideline, giving the Tigers the lead for good.
“They are a heck of a football team,” Hynoski said. “We knew we had to pick it up and drive the ball offensively.”

The Tigers (12-0), who will play District 2 champion Old Forge, a 20-13 winner over Northwest next week in the Scranton area, scored two more touchdowns in the first half, a seven-yard run by Hynoski after a 34-yard punt return by Tom Admire, and a 23-yard pass from Ted Heitzman to Admire with 38.7 seconds left in the half.

Southern looked in control when Adams scored on a four-yard run with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter to make it 35-12, capping a seven-play, 71-yard drive, but the Eagles weren’t finished.

Morris, who passed for 156 yards and ran for 92, completed a 46-yard pass to Brock Lagerman, and with a late hit penalty tacked on, got the ball at the nine. Morris then threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Letterman.

But by that time, the Eagles’ defense was overmatched. The Tigers went 59 yards in nine plays, converting a fourth-and-10 pass to keep the drive going, and Hynoski scored from the four with 11:22 left in the game on his last carry.

Hynoski’s three touchdowns gave him a career total of 105, breaking Jerry Marks’ school record of 103. He also now has 6,405 career yards rushing, ranking him 13th on the state’s all-time list, just eight yards behind another former Tiger, Ricco Rosini.

Morris scored on a seven-yard run as the Tigers began to substitute, and Southern’s Austin Carpenter answered with a 21-yard touchdowns with 2:17 remaining.

Letterman scored on a one-yard run with 18 seconds left in the game.