Dunmore holds off late Southern rally to advance in states
PECKVILLE - Southern Columbia had a lot of questions coming into this season after reaching the state final in 2011.
One thing that was never questioned, even after the Tigers' final minute, was their heart.
Southern Columbia lost 35-29 to Dunmore in the first round of the PIAA Class A state tournament Friday night, but not until a furious rally fell seconds short.
The Tigers had trailed 35-14 midway through the fourth quarter after a blocked punt was returned for a touchdown, and in a place, Valley View's John Henzes Stadium, that bore the name of the father of Dunmore's coach (Jack Henzes) and had been the Bermuda Triangle for Southern's playoff hopes the last half-dozen years, the Tigers never quit.
Late touchdown runs by Matt Lupold and Adam Feudale brought the Tigers to within a score, but the Bucks' offense was able to run out the clock on Southern's season.
The Bucks will now play the winner of today's matchup between Williams Valley and Bristol.
"We moved the ball and it was nice to see the kids fight back and not quit, but we dug too much of a hole and couldn't recover from it," Southern Columbia head coach Jim Roth said. "It was too much against a team like this, especially when you can't stop them consistently."
The battering ram of the Bucks' offense was junior fullback Daiqwon Buckley, who ran for nearly 100
yards in the second half, but didn't score.
Instead, Dunmore used a series of big plays to take and keep the lead after Southern's Taylor Young had rushed for a pair of touchdown runs in the second and third quarter to stake the Tigers to a 14-6 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff after Young's second run, Dunmore's Mike Kolcharno returned the ball 46 yards to the Tigers' 37 to immediately swing momentum. Bucks' quarterback Brandon Kujawski then completed a 37-yard pass for a score to Josh Zilla on the first play from scrimmage to pull within 14-12.
Southern went three and out on its next possession and Dunmore marched 67 yards to retake the lead.
Recovering a fumble on the kickoff following that touchdown, Dunmore powered the ball into the end zone on three runs.
"They were just more physical than us up front," Roth said. "You can't get knocked off the ball all night and expect good things to happen. Their backs ran extremely hard and got a lot of yards after first contact. You add that up and it makes for too many points."
Southern was able to rack up 209 yards rushing, but also gave away two fumbles to kill promising drives.
Dunmore's Mike Boland then returned a blocked punt for 50 yards to finish the Bucks' scoring.
Southern scored on its following possession and a fumble by Dunmore on its next possession left a small crack for the Tigers.
Young engineered a 67-yard drive to pull within a score, but Dunmore picked up a first down on the game's last drive to keep the ball out of Southern's hands.
"I don't think they punted in the second half and if you're going to come back, you have to get stops," Roth said. "We got a turnover, but just not good enough up front in this one."
The loss was the first of the year for Southern (12-1), which also won its 21st District 4 title last week.
"We have a lot of underclassmen, so that's a positive," Roth said of the prospects for next year already. "We have a lot of kids who are going to be returning starters next year. For the senior class, they had the challenge of stepping into a season where there were a lot of first-year starters and they did a great job as far as their performance and leadership to give us a 12-win season. That's no too shabby considering we had a lot of people to replace."