North Penn-Mansfield at Southern Columbia
Last meeting: Southern won, 63-28, in 2017 District 4 Class AA quarterfinals
Background: Southern has been on a different level this season and is making a case to be considered one of the best teams in Pennsylvania history. The two-time defending state champions feature four Big 10 recruits (Julian Fleming-Ohio State, Gaige Garcia-Michigan, Preston Zachman-Wisconsin, Cal Haladay-Michigan State) and have outscored opponents, 617-26. Included are wins against state-ranked Montoursville and Wyoming Area, as well as Mount Carmel and South Carolina power Hammond. Southern also has won 43 straight games. North Penn-Mansfield is a tough team that showed no fear two years ago when it trailed 28-20 in the second quarter at Southern.
NP-Mansfield PPG–22.5, YPG–289.6, PPA–23.0, YPA–307.8
NP-Mansfield facts: Reaching the semifinals is a big achievement for a team that replaced 19 starters from last year and that features just three senior starters. North Penn-Mansfield stunned rival Wellsboro, 17-14, last Saturday and snapped the Hornets’ eight-game winning streak. The defense was outstanding, forcing four turnovers and allowing just one touchdown. Mitchael Tice returned an interception for a touchdown, Cameron Fabian made an end zone interception and Logyn Choplosky forced a fumble while recovering two more. Linebacker Brett Harvey made 10 tackles and went over 100 for the season. Linemen Coleman Jelliff and Fisher Vandruff have had some big games and have combined for seven sacks. Quarterback Colton Litzelman has shined in his first year starting, throwing for 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just twice in 277 attempts. Noah Spencer is returning to full strength after missing much of the season with an injury and played a strong game against Wellsboro, catching four passes, totaling 102 yards and pinning Wellsboro inside the 10-yard line a play before Tice collected his Pick 6. Bryan Bogaczyk is another running back who is dangerous coming out of the backfield and Koleton Roupp scored four touchdowns against Cowanesque Valley, running for two and catching two. Kevin Alexander provides the special teams a boost and the junior kicker has connected on five field goals. North Penn-Mansfield is making its second straight district semifinal appearance and sixth straight district playoff appearance.
NP-Mansfield player to watch–Kaelan Matzczak: The senior defensive back was not ready to see his scholastic career come to an end last week and made a career-high 10 tackles. Matczak provides production and leadership on both sides of the ball. He has intercepted two passes and caught 24 passes for 347 yards and a touchdown.
Southern PPG–56.1, YPG–499.4, PPA–2.4, YPA–107.2
Southern facts: That nine-time state champion coach Jim Roth is calling this group a once in a lifetime-type team drives home how dominant Southern is. The Tigers have no weakness and have dominated all facets against all 11 teams. Garcia is the state’s all-time leader in touchdowns and Fleming owns the state records for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. The scary thing is that those two have rarely played in the second halves throughout their scholastic careers. Zachman is going to Wisconsin at linebacker, but also has flourished at quarterback, totaling 1,589 yards and 21 touchdowns. The offensive line has been otustanding and sophomore Gavin Garcia already has joined his brother in the 1,000-yard club for a second straight year, averaging a staggering 17 yards per carry. Southern blanked Towanda, 75-0, in the quarterfinals and scored eight touchdowns on nine first-half plays that produced 501 yards. The defense has been as fearsome as the offense has been explosive. The Tigers have shut out eight opponents and did not allow a point until the third quarter of their sixth game. Linebacker Max Tillett gives Southern its fifth Division I player. Tillett is an all-state linebacker who will play at New Hampshire next fall. Cornerback Jake Davis also earned all-state honors last year and has five interceptions. Southern’s defense has scored more touchdowns (5) than it has allowed (4).
Southern player to watch–Ty Roadarmel: On almost any other team, Roadarmel likely would be a 1,000-1,500-yard workhorse running back. The fullback is a fabulous blocker who also makes the most of his carries, running for 571 yards and seven touchdowns. He averages 12.7 yards per carry and his lead blocking often paves the way for the Garica’s to make big plays.
Winner plays: No. 3 Mount Carmel or No. 2 Troy
Outlook: Nearly everyone knows how this game is going to go. Still, it presents an awesome opportunity for North Penn-Mansfield’s players to gain more playoff experience building toward what could be a big 2020 campaign. Fleming is the nation’s top college recruit and NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders has raved about him. This might just be a chance for the Panthers to tell their kids they played against a future NFL star.
–By CHRIS MASSE