H.S. FOOTBALL: Old Forge ends Southern Columbia's season
COAL TOWNSHIP - All you need to know about Old Forge's confidence against Southern Columbia Friday is that the Blue Devils traveled to Shamokin's Kemp Memorial Stadium in a bus chartered by Tiger Coach Lines.
If they didn't think that was a bad omen, why should anyone else?
On the field, their confidence came shining through after a horrendous first quarter in which they fell behind 14-0. Most teams that do that against Southern are headed for Mercy Rule City.
Not Old Forge. All the Blue Devils did was shut out Southern the rest of the game and patiently battle back for a 19-14 win over the previously unbeaten Tigers (12-1) in their PIAA Class A first round playoff game. Old Forge (12-1) will play Schuylkill Haven in the next round.
Tailback Brandon Yescavage carried the ball 23 times for 206 yards and all three Old Forge touchdowns, including the game winner, a 50-yard run, with 6:01 to play.
But he had a lot of help from his teammates up front. Put simply, Old Forge won the battle of the trenches, on both sides of the ball. Even though the Tigers scored on their first two possessions, they had to go to the air to set up the run, instead of vice-versa, and Old Forge got stronger up front as the game went on.
"All I can say is these kids bust their (butts) for me," said Old Forge coach Michael Schuback. "All the seniors did this, starting with Shane (Schuback, his son). He was talking about this game 10 months ago."
"We knew it would be a physical game and they just won the battle up front," said Southern coach Jim Roth. "We never had any consistency in moving the ball and we didn't break off any big plays. At the end of the game we had more guys going one way and that should have been a difference but it wasn't."
Still, Southern came very close to being up two or three touchdowns and making a rout of the game early.
The Tigers drove 80 yards in 12 plays on their first series after Old Forge deferred the kickoff but the big plays were passes, 13 and 17-yard completions to from Nick Becker to Luke Rarig and a 34-yarder to Zach Tillett. Nate Hunter scored the touchdown on a four-yard run.
Southern got a big break on its next series when an apparent Old Forge interception was wiped out by a holding call, and Adam Feudale, who had 111 hard-earned yards on 28 carries, scored on a nine-yard run.
Yescavage put Old Forge back in the game with an 80-yard touchdown run around the right corner. But the game really turned around after that. Southern, after the ensuing kickoff, drove from its 33-yard line to Old Forge's two-yard line on 11 running plays, but a chop block penalty nullified a two-yard touchdown by Feudale and Southern had to settle for a 33-yard field goal attempt by Rarig, which bounced off the right goalpost for a miss.
Old Forge then drove back 80 yards in 11 plays of its own, with Yescavage scoring on a three-yard run with 17 seconds left in the half. This time, Old Forge got some help when a Yescavage fumble which Southern apparently recovered was whistled dead, and although the extra point attempt failed, things changed.
"I think them scoring right before halftime was even bigger than us not scoring," Roth said.
Southern hurt itself with another huge mistake to start the second half. After forcing a fourth-and-13 at Old Forge's 15 on the Devils' first possession, the Tigers were called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the stop, giving Old Forge a first down at the 30. Southern forced a punt but missed better field position.
Even when they got great field position, the Tigers failed to take advantage. A 52-yard line drive punt on the last play of the third quarter pinned Old Forge back at its one and Southern's defense held, forcing a punt which Rarig returned to the Old Forge 31. But Southern gained only nine yards and Old Forge took over on downs.
Yescavage had a run of 17 yards to the 50, then broke off his 50-yard touchdown run.
The Tigers didn't go down quietly. They drove from their 20 to Old Forge's 13, with Rarig and Blake Marks making big third-down catches, but finally a fourth-and-8 pass from the 13 was stopped with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Old Forge (12-1) 0 13 0 6 - 19
Southern (12-1) 14 0 0 0 - 14