SUNBURY — The last time Southern Columbia faced Shikellamy in football, current Tiger coach Jim Roth was an elementary student at Shikellamy.
The Tigers scored first in that game, but the Braves, on their way to an Eastern Conference championship, won 34-12.
Friday night, in Roth’s first-ever match-up with his alma mater, the Tigers scored like Chicagoans have been said to go to the polls, early and often, racking up 34 points in the first quarter en route to a 69-7 victory in the Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference cross-over game at Shikellamy Stadium. It was Southern’s school-record 69th consecutive regular-season victory.
The Tigers’ defense forced the Braves to go three-and-out on every first-half possession except for the fourth one when Southern junior safety Cade Linn intercepted a pass and took it 16 yards to the house.
Linn’s pick-six made it 27-0 with a little more than four minutes still to play in the first period.
“You’re just trying to stay sharp and you’re hoping you don’t come out and play down to the level of our opponent,” Roth said. “Shik is obviously struggling this year, we came out and played hard and obviously scored a bunch of points in the first half and the defense looked real good.
He said that the Braves did give the Tigers what they expected on defense, a lot of movement and stunting, and he said Shikellamy has played well at times this season stopping the run.
For that reason, he was happy with the way his team handled the Braves’ defense and ran the ball.
Southern rushed for 372 yards and amassed 443 yards of offense.
The Tigers (8-0) spoiled a 53-yard punt by Jon Gittens on the first Shikellamy possession when junior wide receiver Julian Fleming returned it 53 yards to the Braves’ 10-yard line. On the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage, junior halfback Gaige Garcia went over the right side for a 10-yard, but the PAT failed leaving it 6-0 with 10:18 left in the opening quarter.
Dunkelberger, who kicked off 11 times, made his next nine PATs in a row after the miss.
The Garcia brothers had their way in the first half, before the Tiger starters became spectators with the clock running the rest of the way.
Freshman Gaige Garcia rushed for 133 yards on six carries and two TDs while Gaige had 115 on 10 rushes and three scores.
“It was kind of status quo for them,” Roth said. “They both ran hard and actually Shik was doing a lot with movement and blitzing the linebackers and things like that I and I thought that they did a good job of making people miss and breaking some long runs when they had to do a little bit of it on their own.”
Fleming caught three passes, two for TDs, for 58 yards. His TDs went for 11 and 25 yards.
Junior fullback Ty Roadarmel ran for a 16-yard score to complete the first-half scoring.
Shikellamy fullback Ulysses Mercado, one of 10 Braves’ honored before the game on Senior Night, raced around the left end for a 33-yard TD on the home team’s first possession of the second half and Gittens Pat made it 55-7. It was the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Mercado’s first TD of the season.
With mostly reserves playing both ways, Braden Heim and Brandon Gedman each ran for TDs for the Tigers in the fourth quarter.
Shikellamy coach Todd Tilford said he and his staff told their players going into the game to go out and try to win their one-on-one battles.
“They are a better team than us, but our kids played hard. It got out of hand, obviously, but our kids competed, and they will compete against next week against Shamokin,” Tilford said.
The Braves (1-7) are still in the hunt for a District 4 Class 4-A playoff berth, with games remaining at Shamokin and at Milton.
Tilford, whose team has battled injuries since the start of the season, is getting healthier.
“All we can do is get ready to play Shamokin. We should be close to full strength and hopefully we can get on a roll against a good Shamokin team,” he said.
“Hopefully we can sneak in to districts,” he said.