Southern football practice

Members of the Southern Columbia Area High School football team run an interception drill during a practice Tuesday at Tiger Stadium.

When Southern Columbia’s absurdly talented Class of 2020 burst onto the scene in 2016, not everyone knew the kind of affect they would have on the program.

Gaige Garcia, who has become a bit of a household name in coal region football, often had his first name misspelled by area media outlets.

Julian Fleming, as hard as it may be to believe, hadn’t yet received interest from Division I schools.

And linebacker Cal Haladay served as a quiet, though still effective, force that didn’t burst through the line before the ball left the center’s hands anywhere near as often as he does now.

Look how far they’ve come.

Garcia is on pace to break Henry Hynoski’s career rushing record. Fleming has received offers from just about every big-name school in the country and Haladay recently received an offer from Jim Harbaugh to play at the University of Michigan.

Now add in the other guys — senior QB Stone Hollenbach is walking on to Alabama, Gavin Garcia is one heck of a freshman athlete (and we haven’t even seen him wrestle yet) and an offensive line that head coach Jim Roth was critical of at the beginning of the year is now earning the seasoned coach’s praises.

Needless to say, Wilmington (13-1) has a lot of obstacles to overcome in Friday’s state championship game.

After falling 48-0 to the Tigers last season, Greyhounds head coach Terry Verrilli called it a career following 40 seasons.

He told the New Castle News that he wanted to leave the program while it was at a high point for new head coach Brandon Phillian to continue the squad’s winning tradition.

Phillian, who was previously the team’s defensive coordinator, has lived up to his side of the bargain, leading the Greyhounds back to the title game with a squad that has a host of returning starters.

He’s going to get a trial by fire tomorrow.

Southern Columbia is a 51-point game away from setting the PIAA record for most points scored in a season, a mark set by Jeannette in 2007 with 860. The Tigers have racked up 810 points heading into Friday’s game.

While Southern’s talented group of juniors will secure the program’s integrity for at least another year, it’s important to remember that the Tigers also found a state championship without them in 2015.

With that said, it’s completely within the realm of possibility for the squad to make it through their entire high school careers having lost just one game — the 2016 state championship against Steel Valley.

And that’s a statistic no one can take away from them.

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