Nov. 27—CATAWISSA — Though the game was already out of reach, maybe the most impressive of Gavin Garcia's five touchdown runs came from just 5 yards out on Friday night.
A Richland defender looked to have Garcia dead-to-rights at the line of scrimmage, but let out an expletive when he realized the Kent State-signee had left him the dust like hundreds of others over his four-year career.
Garcia ran for 211 yards on just 12 carries, and added a receiving touchdown as the Tigers romped to a 62-20 victory over Richland in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals on their home field.
"My thought coming in was if our offense could do what it had been doing, we'd be OK, but I didn't expect to score 60 points against this team," Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth said. "If we could score some points, and not give up the big play (we'd be fine)."
Well, the Tigers defense certainly didn't give up the big play to the Rams on Friday night.
Southern Columbia allowed a touchdown on Richland's first drive, but relentless pressure — the Tigers had three sacks — from defensive ends Derek Berlitz and Colden Bloom on Richland quarterback Kellen Stahl, and some outstanding play in the secondary took care of the rest.
Garcia ripped off a 57-yard TD run on the second play from scrimmage to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead just 20 seconds into the game.
The Rams put together a 52-yard drive to tie the game on Stahl's 4-yard TD run. Garcia had a 20-yard run and Braeden Wisloski added a 16-yard jaunt before Garcia's 17-yard TD run made it 14-7 with 5:29 left in the game.
"For the last three years, since Gavin put one some muscle, he's just been amazing," Roth said. "He kept all of his abilities but they're amplified by the extra muscle. He can't be arm tackled. If we can get him started, he's just so good at that second move. Generally, if we are giving him that hole, where he can reach that next level, it's just so hard for the second and third level to tackle him in the open field."
That's when the key stretch of the game came. Richland picked up two first downs on its next drive, and threw deep to Gavin Larue on the next play.
Conner Gallagher made an interception, and gave the Tigers the ball back on their own 31.
"We were just trying to shut down their receivers," Gallagher said. "We watched a little bit of film (on the tablets) after the first possession, and made some small adjustments. I was just playing with my back to the ball and turned around, and the ball was right there."
Seven plays later, Wes Barnes scored from 2 yards out with 54 seconds left in the first quarter to give Southern Columbia a 21-7 lead.
Carter Madden forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, the Rams' second fumble of the game on kickoff, and Gallagher jumped on it at the Richland 25.
Quarterback Blake Wise hit Garcia on a 25-yard pass in the end zone. Garcia bobbled it a bit, but secured control and got both feet down in the back of the end zone to give Southern Columbia a 28-7 lead with 36.7 left in the first quarter.
It didn't get much better in the second quarter for the Rams. Garcia ran 26 yards for his fourth touchdown of the game with 9:24 left in the first half, before his brother, Garrett, picked up a fumble and returned it 14 yards for a 41-7 lead.
It looked to be a mercy-rule game when Gavin Garcia scored from 11 yards out with 4:08 left, but a poor snap on the PAT and a second Stahl touchdown run left the game 48-14 at the break.
Richland drove into Southern Columbia territory on the first possession of the second half, but Gallagher and Gavin Garcia led a group of Southern Columbia tacklers that stopped a fourth-and-2 from the Tigers 19.
It did take the aforementioned Garcia 5-yard TD run — after a 44-yard run where appeared to duck out of a tackle after 5 yards — to push the lead to 52-14, and start the running clock.
Wisloski (12 carries, 161 yards) added a 56-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter to send the Tigers to another semifinal appearance.
They will face Northern Lehigh (11-3) next week at a site and time to be determined on Sunday. The Bulldogs will make their first semifinal appearance in 18 years after a 48-24 win over West Catholic.
PIAA CLASS 2A QUARTERFINAL
SOUTHERN COLUMBIA 62,
Richland (11-3);7;7;0;6 — 20
Southern Coumbia (13-1);28;20;7;7 — 62
SC-Gavin Garcia 57 run (Isaac Carter kick)
R-Kellen Stahl 4 run (Noah Ritko kick)
SC-Gavin Garcia 17 run (Carter kick)
SC-Wes Barnes 2 run (Carter kick)
SC-Gavin Garcia 25 pass from Blake Wise (Carter kick)
SC-Gavin Garcia 26 run (Carter kick)
SC-Garrett Garcia 14 fumble return (run failed)
SC-Gavin Garcia 11 run (Carter kick)
R-Stahl 1 run (Ritko kick)
SC-Garcia 5 run (Carter kick)
SC-Braeden Wisloski 54 run (Carter kick)
R-Lanigan McCulty 5 run (pass failed)
RUSHING — Richland: Sam Penna 3-39; Kellen Stahl 14-26, 2 TDs; Easton Robertson 3-22; Grayden Lewis 9-20; Lanigan McCulty 1-5, TD; Drayven Plachy 1-3. Southern Columbia: Gavin Garcia 12-211, 5 TDs; Braeden Wisloski 12-161, TD; Wes Barnes 8-54, TD; Trevor Yorks 1-3; team 2-(-2).
PASSING — Richland: Stahl 13-27-1 for 160 yards; Penna 2-6-0 for 25 yards. Southern Columbia: Blake Wise 3-4-0 for 55 yards, TD.
RECEIVING — Richland: Griffin Larue 7-100; Devonte Johnson 3-32; Luke Feichtel 2-25; Penna 2-20; Lewis 1-8. Southern Columbia: Garcia 2-42, TD; Barnes 1-13.