Tigers Claw Panthers.
By: Dave Fegley | SCA Tiger Football | November 4, 2017
By: Dave Fegley | SCA Tiger Football | November 4, 2017
Nobody in the stadium deep-down believed that North Penn-Mansfield could upset top-seeded Southern Columbia. However, give the Panthers credit for coming out and competing for the better part of the first half. “I am proud of the way our guys came out with confidence. We were excited to play against the top team in the state. This was a game for our kids to see what an elite football program looks like and hopefully we can build off of this experience heading into next year,” said North Penn-Mansfield coach Tom Dickinson. The Tigers ended up winning the game in Mercy Rule fashion 63-26, but it wasn’t the prettiest victory in recent memory.
Leading by a touchdown with 7:29 left in the first half, the Tigers got a touchdown from an unlikely candidate on the defensive side of the ball. After the Panthers intercepted a pass, they were trailing the state’s No. 1 ranked team just 28-20 with a chance to tie the game. “We had a blitz called on the play. Cal Haladay and I were blitzing and we got pressure on their quarterback,” said SCA’s Anthony Scicchitano. Scicchitano, a senior captain, intercepted that pass which initially bounced off of a teammate’s helmet and took it in from four yards out to give his Tigers a 35-20 lead that provided the lift for his team to steamroll to the finish. “I saw the ball bounce off of Lear Quinton’s helmet. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and I just caught it and took it into the end zone,” said the linebacker.
Southern was playing without their all-state receiver Julian Fleming who was resting with an injury from a week ago. In his absence, fellow sophomore and fellow returning all-stater Gaige Garcia did his part in helping the offense roll, but others stepped up as well. Tristan Heim, Preston Zachman, and Scicchitano were the three that provided the biggest lift for Jim Roth’s offense besides Garcia. “We knew that other guys were going to need to step up in Julian’s absence. I think this gave some other guys more confidence heading into the rest of the playoffs. We did a good job of mixing it up and getting other players more touches,” Roth said.
Heim started off the scoring on a one yard touchdown to put SCA up 7-0. “Other teams key on Gaige coming out of the backfield. I just try to help out to take the pressure off of him a little bit. The line blocked well for the backs and we had success rushing the football,” Heim said. That touchdown came after the Panthers punter muffed a snap, and Tyler Bendas tackled him inside the 10, giving the Tigers a short field to work with. The Panthers scored on their next drive on a nine yard pass from Brent Burleigh to Dylan Wesneski. The extra point was blocked.
The Tigers went up 14-6 on their next drive. Scicchitano caught his first career touchdown pass on a 14-yard strike from Stone Hollenbach. “With Julian being out, I figured the ball was going to spread around more. Stone and I were working in practice on some routes earlier in the week. It was nice to catch my first touchdown pass because our tight end’s don’t get many targets in our offensive system,” Scicchitano said. Garcia put the Tigers up 21-6 on a five yard run after the Tigers forced a three-and-out. Then, the Panthers needed just one play for Brendan Hill to catch a 78-yard touchdown out of the backfield to make the score 21-12 after another failed conversion.
Southern scored early in the second quarter when Zachman caught a 34-yard touchdown pass. “It was a fun game. I just wanted to go out there and do my thing to help the team. With Julian out, I knew I would be counted on more, and I think our offense played real well,” Zachman said. NP-Mansfield didn’t quit however. They scored on the next drive on a 48-yard pass from Burleigh to Wesneski again. The Panthers threw for the two-point conversion to make the score 28-20. “We simply have to play better than that in our pass defense. Hopefully Julian’s injury isn’t anything long term. That will fix some of it real quick,” said Roth in regards to the pass coverage. The Tigers have given up nearly 600 yards passing and six touchdowns in the last two weeks in the air.
The Tigers were driving on their next drive to go up two scores again, but Hollenbach was intercepted in the end zone by Austin Frost. The Panthers were pinned deep after a sack from Haladay. Then, Scicchitano’s interception came on the next play to put the Tigers in front 35-20. “We had some opportunities to tie the game in the first half, but their guys made some plays to keep them in front,” said Dickinson. Garcia tacked on a one yard touchdown just before half to put SCA up 42-20.
Heim officially put the game out of reach on the Tigers first drive of the second half. He caught a 23-yard pass on a 3rd and long and finished off the drive with a nine yard run. “We talked at halftime of what we needed to change. We then came back and approached the second half like it was a new game,” Heim said. Southern put together the 13-play, 78 yard drive, and it took up over half of the third quarter. Later on in the quarter, Garcia put the game into the Mercy Rule with a 26-yard touchdown run making the score 56-20. In the final quarter, Ty Roadarmel added a five yard score for the Tigers, and Garrett David scored a four yard touchdown for the Panthers to make the final score 63-26.
North Penn-Mansfield finished their season at 6-5. Southern is now 11-0 and will host Central Columbia next Friday in the District IV AA Semi-Finals. The Tigers handled the Blue Jays easily three weeks ago. “We have some things that we need to fix this week in practice. The goal is to get better each week and we will,” Zachman said. On the other side of the bracket, Mount Carmel Area will host Line Mountain after both of those schools pulled off first round upsets.