Football preview: NP Mansfield at Southern Columbia
No. 8 North Penn-Mansfield (6-4) at No. 1 Southern Columbia (10-0)
NP-Mansfield PPG-29.4, YPG-280.8; PPA-17.2, YPA-253.4
NP-Mansfield facts: This is a young Panthers team and reaching the Class AA playoffs is a good sign for a team that lost the majority of their starters from last year. So while the task is beyond daunting tonight, there are many reasons North Penn-Mansfield should be encouraged about its program. The Panthers are playing with house money tonight against the state’s No. 1-ranked Class AA team. They had won four of five games before losing, 36-7 to Wellsboro last week and did not allow more than 14 points in any of those five games. Linebacker Garrett David has topped 100 tackles for a second straight year and had 16 against Wellsboro. Senior Naseer Burzak has put together a strong performance in his last season, averaging 8.4 tackles per game and adding four sacks. Five players have at least four sacks, including Kipp Hillson who has five, along with three interceptions and a fumble return for a touchdown. Quarterback Brent Burleigh became the third straight brother in his family to go over 1,000 yards in a season and has 17 touchdown passes. His older brother Bo topped 1,000 yards in 2013-14 before Brock did so in 2015-16. Running back Brendan Hill has gone over 900 yards in consecutive seasons and needs just four yards tonight to become the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014. Dylan Wesneski, Nick Kasper and Justin Shedd all have 20 or more catches and Judson Wise caught a 66-yard touchdown last week.
NP-Mansfield player to watch-Mikah Kolb: The junior linebacker has played well down the stretch and made a career-high 11 tackles against Wellsboro last week. Kolb has forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and added 12 quarterback hurries.
Southern PPG-49.5, YPG -454.2; PPA-10.8; YPA-167.2
Southern facts: The Tigers have won 24 district championships in the last 26 seasons and have played in the last two Class AA state finals, capturing the 2015 crown. Southern returned most of its starters from last year’s state finalist and has run roughshod through its schedule thus far. The Tigers have won 61 straight regular-season games and thumped 4A title contender Selinsgrove, 49-28 last week. The defense opened the season by allowing just one touchdown the first four weeks and sophomore linebacker Cal Haladay looks like he could be an all-state selection again. Haladay leads the team in tackles and had two sacks, two interceptions and a a game-clinching interception for a touchdown against Selinsgrove. The Tigers are stingy against the run and also have 34 sacks. Sophomore Max Tillett is tied for the team lead with six sacks and has eight tackles for loss. Sophomore Julian Fleming already has received numerous major Division I offers and is the top-ranked wide receiver in the country for the 2020 graduating class. He ha more than 2,000 yards receiving and 30 touchdown catches the past two seasons and went over 1,100 yards this year with his 11-catch performance against Selinsgrove. Quarterback Stone Hollenbach has thrown 21 touchdown passes and just one interception and sophomore Gaige Garcia has run for 1,212 yards and 21 touchdowns behind a strong line. Garcia already is over 3,100 career yards and has scored 56 touchdowns the past two seasons.
Southern player to watch-Tyler Bendas: The senior defensive end is a team leader and tough to block on the edge. Bendas was an all-state selection last year and is tied for the team lead with six sacks. He also is tough to run on, has blocked a punt and has 10 1/2 sacks the last two seasons.
Outlook: There’s no nice way to put it. Southern likely is going to win by a lot tonight.
Winner plays: No. 4 Central Columbia (8-2) or No. 5 Towanda (8-2)