Tigers rally, advance to final
CATAWISSA R.R. - In the past month or so, as unbeaten Southern Columbia was struggling to pick up wins over Bloomsburg and Central Columbia, Tigers coach Jim Roth was waiting for his team to really earn a big win.
He got his wish Friday.
Trailing Line Mountain 21-7 going into the fourth quarter in the District 4 Class A semifinals, the Tigers (11-0) scored three unanswered touchdowns for a 28-21 win over the Eagles (8-3), who, if nothing else, outplayed Southern and never went away, finishing the game at Southern's 35-yard line.
Southern will play South Williamsport (10-1), a 32-16 winner over Bloomsburg in the other semifinal, next week at Tiger Stadium for the district title. Southern beat South Williamsport 42-21 early in the season.
Southern needed every bit of the effort it got. Line Mountain, with a combination of big plays and grind-it-out offense, led 14-0 at halftime and had a 201-72 yardage advantage.
But Southern opened the second half with a 13-play, 69-yard, scoring drive, with all but one of the plays a run, a drive which set the tone for the rest of the game. Adam Feudale scored on a one-yard run and the drive was the start of Southern's offensive front finally starting to get the better of Line Mountain's defensive front.
"In the third quarter, our sweep and halfback games started to go well," said Roth. "They had guys going both ways and we had a lot of one-way guys, and we outweighed them quite a bit, too. They got a little bit tired but other than that, I thought they played toe-to-toe defense against us. They had a great effort."
Line Mountain coach Rodney Knock agreed.
"These kids believed in themselves," Knock said. "We broke every huddle with that word during practice this week, and I couldn't have asked for any more from all 11 guys on the field all game. I told them not to leave anything on the field, that I'd carry them off if I had to, and they played that way, and we did have some guys banged up and hurting at the end."
Quarterback Cole Rickert led the way, passing for 258 yards and a touchdown, and running for another 51 yards and a touchdown.
"I thought we played a great game," Rickert said, "but they kind of wore us down. We came in here knowing what we had to do, Coach Knock called a great game and everybody did a great job. It's frustrating to lose but we did our best."
The teams felt each other out for a quarter before Rickert and Dillan Michael connected on a 51-yard touchdown pass over the middle with 11:26 left in the second quarter. Michael, who had four catches for 122 yards, then made a big defensive play, intercepting a pass to give the Eagles the ball near midfield, and they drove 54 yards for another score, with backup quarterback Codi Morris coming in and going 26 yards for a touchdown on a third-and-six sneak.
Line Mountain answered Southern's opening drive of the second half with another big play. Rickert and Michael connected again for a 53-yard gain to the Southern 11, and Rickert ran for 10 yards, then sneaked over from the one to make it a two-touchdown game again.
"There were two big gut checks in this game," said Roth. "At halftime after they totally outplayed us, and after they answered our touchdown."
The teams exchanged possessions but Southern gained field position with better punting, and Feudale capped an eight-play, 54-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run with 11:45 left in the game. Southern forced a three-and-out, and quickly tied the game with two plays, a 25-yard run by Matt Lupold and a 35-yard touchdown on a sweep to the right by freshman Blake Marks.
Southern forced the Eagles into a fourth-and-one at their own 29 on the next series, but Rickert threw over the middle to Erik Smeltz for a 30-yard gain. The Eagles picked up another first down, but Rickert was sacked for an 11-yard loss by Garrett Sosnoski on another fourth down.
Southern finally got the lead on a 44-yard screen pass from Young to Feudale with 3:18 to play, It looked like a Southern lineman jumped on the play, but no flag was thrown and the score counted.
Line Mountain started its final drive at the 20 after a touchback. Rickert complete 5 of 7 passes for 47 yards, taking the Eagles to Southern's 35-yard line before throwing four straight incompletions, the last an interception by Matt Klock, to end the game.