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Hughesville falls to Southern Columbia on the road 41-7

CATAWISSA – Hughesville hasn’t been done any favors by its schedule this year.

That tough slate continued on Friday for the Spartans with probably their toughest game of the year against four-time defending state champion Southern Columbia. And although the Spartans did some good things, the result was predictable, as Hughesville fell to the Tigers 41-7.

“We’re just killing ourselves. The kids just need to get that winning going and once they get that started, I think they’re going to love it and not want to give it up,” said Hughesville coach Howard Rainey. “Right now, they’re OK with a close game in a loss. We just need to get them in the mindset that winning is what it’s all about.”

The Spartans were held without a first down and to -28 yards in the first half, including -39 on the ground, all while Southern scored all of its points in the first half.

“We tried some powers, we tried to get outside. We tried some quick passes, which seemed to work but we weren’t getting enough to get first downs,” said Rainey. “They’re just so fast, they’ve got all-state track competitors on defense.”

Hughesville did force Southern to punt on its second possession of the game after forcing a three-and-out, a rare occurrence for the Tigers in the first half of games. But Southern still scored on six of its first seven drives, three of which were single-play drives.

Gavin Garcia finished with 179 rushing yards on nine carries, caught a 54-yard touchdown pass, and totaled 272 all-purpose yards on the evening. It may have been even more, but he had two long runs, including one for a touchdown, greatly reduced due to penalties.

A 46-yard pickup following one of those long runs being called back flipped the field on Southern’s first drive of the game, and the Tigers capped their longest drive of the game in terms of plays with Blake Wise’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Jake Rose to take a 7-0 lead just 3:30 into the game.

After punting on their next drive, Southern put together two straight one-play drives. First, Trevor Yorks burst up the middle for a 71-yard touchdown run.

Then, after Hughesville pinned the Tigers back at their own 6-yard line on a 57-yard punt by Tyler Fowler, Garcia erased that field position deficit in one play as he went 94 yards for a touchdown to put Southern up 21-0.

“Once Garcia got the ball and out in the open, we just couldn’t stop him,” said Rainey. “If we had him in the backfield before he got momentum, we were ok, but as soon as he gets momentum, he’s gone.”

Wise then threw back-to-back touchdown passes on Southern’s next two drives, connecting with Matt Masala for an 18-yard reception and then tossing a screen pass to Garcia, who turned it into a the 54-yard touchdown.

Yorks would cap Southern’s scoring on the Tigers’ next drive with a 49-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.

“Offensively, it took us a little longer to get on track and some of that had to do with them changing things up on us,” said Southern coach Jim Roth. “They ran a totally different front and came out with a 5-3 defense in a way that wasn’t normal. But our kids have to respond to that, because we get that on a pretty regular basis. We get something different or some looks with people tweaking their defense different from what we see on film.”

The Spartans held the ball for a majority of the second half with the running clock. They ran 29 plays to just eight for Southern. A long 16-play drive ended with a missed 33-yard field goal by Josh Heiney, but the Spartans did manage a late touchdown with under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout as Kelby Gordner capped an 84-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run.

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