Raw Sports

Southern Columbia caps off a dominant season with their 3rd consecutive state championship By: Tyler Harden

HERSHEY— If it was not obvious before, it is now, Southern Columbia is one of the best teams in the state. The Tigers won their 3rd state championship in a row, and extended their record to 10 state championships in program history. But this season was one to remember for Southern Columbia, as this undefeated team has 5 Division 1 players including the number 1 recruit in the country (according to ESPN), Julian Fleming, who is committed to Ohio State. The Tigers were set to take on Avonworth, the undefeated District 7 Champions out of Pittsburgh.
Oddly enough, Avonworth had a 5 play, 73 yard drive and struck first with a 43 yard pass to Trevor Faulkner from Park Penrod to put the Antelopes up 7-0. Once the Tigers’ offense came on the field, they were able to tie the game as Preston Zachman found Julian Fleming for a 12 yard touchdown. But it wasn’t all Southern Columbia’s offense this game. In fact, the defense may have even stood out more, as linebacker, Max Tillett, got the defense going with a fumble recovery on the Avonworth 8 yard line. The next play, Gaige Garcia ran 8 yards to give the Tigers the lead.
The game started to get out of hand from here, as Southern Columbia scored 3 more times in just over three and a half minutes. Gaige Garcia caught a 32 yard pass from Preston Zachman to put the Tigers up by two scores. But two of the three scores came from the defense, as linebacker, Cal Haladay, and defensive back, Jake Davis, both had interceptions returned for touchdowns. “Our defense was flying around,” Michigan State-bound Haladay said, “nine turnovers someone said, that’s unheard of, and just the effort today was great.” Southern Columbia was up 34-7 by the end of the first quarter. Stats that would be impressive for any team to do in a game, like 2 interceptions returned for touchdowns, Southern Columbia did in a quarter.
Things didn’t settle down after that. At the start of the second quarter, Cade Linn, took an interception of his own 46 yards into the end zone. Jake Davis then had another interception, but this time did not score from it. Instead, it eventually led up to Preston Zachman to find Ty Roadarmel for an 8 yard touchdown. 
Late in the second quarter, Avonworth forced a fumble from Julian Fleming. But, Fleming made it up on the next drive, as he took a short pass from Zachman 63 yards for a touchdown. By halftime, the Tigers had a 55-7 lead.
In the third quarter, Ty Roadarmel ran 42 yards for a touchdown, and Gavin Garcia ran 11 yards into the end zone. By the time Southern Columbia had a 68-7 lead, both the starting offense and defense left the field to a standing ovation from their home crowd. But it wasn’t the end of Southern Columbia’s scoring, as Matt Masala picked up a fumbled punt return and ran 42 yards to give Southern Columbia a 74-7 lead that would be the final score.
Not only this game for Southern Columbia, but their entire season was one for the record books. They finished their season having scored 886 points, the most points scored by a state championship winning team in state history. In this game, they scored the most points in a state championship and won by the largest margin in the state championship. The Tigers’ defense even set a few records in the state championship, as they had 9 turnovers, 3 interceptions returned for touchdowns, and 4 defensive touchdowns.
Running back, Gaige Garcia, finishes his high school career as the state record holder for touchdowns (159) and rushing touchdowns (138). “Next is wrestling season, we’re going to go into that”, Michigan-bound Garcia said, “but right now we are living in the moment for football, and make the victory feel pretty sweet.” Wide receiver, Julian Fleming, finishes his high school as the all-time leader in receiving yards (5,489), and touchdown catches (79).  “It’s great, the third one is a little better than the first two, not going to lie, just because we ended on such a great note,” Fleming said, “Such a great group of guys under great coaches, it’s been a rough ride, but it’s been great.” The win also gives Coach Jim Roth his 444th career win, tying Dunmore Head Coach, Jack Henzes, for the second most wins in state history. Roth is 11 wins away from tying former Berwick head coach, George Curry, for the all-time most wins in Pennsylvania.
Avonworth finishes their season 15-1, the best record in program history and they reached their first state championship in program history. They unfortunately ran into a rare team. From the dominant offense, dominant defense, record breakers, Division 1 recruits and much more, this Southern Columbia team will be remembered for a long time.