Devils controlled the line to score upset of Southern
COAL TOWNSHIP - It's not often that you see Southern Columbia get out-muscled in the trenches, but that's exactly what Old Forge did Friday.
It's just as rare when Southern doesn't play with poise in key moments.
Combine those two factors and it's a recipe for trouble.
And so it's the Blue Devils, who continue to rack up postseason upsets, and not the Tigers, 19-14 losers, who will move on to play another ground-and-pound team in Schuylkill Haven in the next round.
Southern Columbia managed 192 yards rushing, but when it counted most in the fourth quarter the Tigers couldn't find a crack in the Blue Devils' line.
"We were out-physicaled up front, basically. We had some other drives were able to move the ball some but not with any consistency. We didn't break off any kind of big plays and that's to sum this game up," Southern Columbia head coach Jim Roth said after the game.
Think about that phrase - out-physicaled - and how it had to have pained Roth to say that.
The Tigers had more one-way players, and more beef on the offensive line. The Tigers had run over every team like a runaway steamroller all season.
Not Old Forge. Not Friday.
"The end of the game, when we felt we should have an edge with more one-way guys, as you could see we weren't getting a lot of push or movement up front," Roth said. "That ultimately is what cost us."
The Blue Devils' defensive line had a total of 18 tackles, but strung out most of Southern's runs so that linebackers Shane Schuback and Matt Trotta flowed easily to the ball. The duo had 27 combined stops.
"How do you stop it? You play a 4-4 like we do all year," Old Forge head coach Michael Schuback said after the game. "There are no secrets. We play sound-technique football and that's what we preach. We play tough, District Two football."
As tough as the Blue Devils were, the Tigers didn't help themselves either.
The Tigers had a total of six penalties for 56 yards, but it was when the penalties happened that hurt most.
With the ball inside the five in the waning moments of the second quarter, Southern got called for a chop block that negated a score by Adam Feudale that would have put the Tigers up 21-7. Instead the Tigers had a third-and-16 and settled for a field goal attempt that hit the upright and bounced back onto the field.
Then on Old Forge's first possession of the second half, Southern had the Blue Devils backed up at their own 20 but a personal foul on third down let Old Forge off the hook and they moved the ball enough to get out of danger.
"Nobody is out there trying to make a penalty, but you get in a big game with emotions, things happen that don't normally happen," Roth said. "The one inside the five was as big as any. There were too many things that didn't go our way."
Penalties, of which Old Forge had their share (nine for 68), didn't hold back the Blue Devils.
"We fought tooth and nail," Schuback said. "We had to overcome penalties and mistakes."
So often that's the difference in tight games - physicality and miscues - something that won't be sitting well with Southern during a long winter.