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York Catholic head coach Eric Depew discusses the state of the Fighting Irish program after a 56-23 playoff loss to powerhouse Southern Columbia. JACOB CALVIN MEYER, 717-505-5406/@jcalvinmeyer

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It may have been the PIAA Class 2-A quarterfinals, but Southern Columbia proved that it is in a class of its own.

The Tigers defeated York Catholic 56-23 Saturday afternoon at Shamokin High School, ending the Fighting Irish’s undefeated season.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” York Catholic head coach Eric Depew said. “We had a great season: 12-0, win the division, win the district and do that. That’s a great accomplishment.”

Southern Columbia’s Julian Fleming, the top wideout in the state, caught five passes for 146 yards and two scores despite the rainy and cold conditions. On the ground, the Tigers, led by brothers Gaige and Gavin Garcia, totaled 369 yards rushing. 

“We came up here and fought,” Depew said. “We just ran into a different type of beast. That’s a whole different beast that we don’t get to see down our way.”

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Irish keep it close: Southern Columbia (14-0) scored on its first play on offense when Stone Hollenbach, who will be a preferred walk-on at Alabama, hit Fleming for a 49-yard score.

“The elements were at play, but first drive the coaches called my number,” Fleming said. “We just tried to take advantage of what we could.”

York Catholic (12-1) then responded on the next drive to tie the game. Cole Witman’s 51-yard run set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from Wes Burns to Benjamin Nelson.

Hollenbach found Fleming again on the next drive, this time from 12 yards out. Hollenbach threw for 248 yards and three scores.

“We had some schemes to try and match up with (Fleming),” Depew said. “Seeing him live here, he’s a specimen. That’s a whole different dimension there with (Fleming).”

The Irish couldn’t corral the ensuing kickoff, giving the ball to the District 4 champions near the red zone. Nelson, however, intercepted Hollenbach’s pass on the first play of the drive to regain possession.

The Irish went three-and-out but forced another turnover on the next drive — a fumble that Nelson also recovered.

“We definitely have had some gut checks,” Fleming said. “We’ve got some leaders who get after us in the huddle and the locker room, so we play the best football we can.”

Burns was intercepted on the second play of the drive — only the sixth York Catholic turnover all season — and Gaige Garcia dashed for a 55-yard score to put the Tigers up 22-7.

Tigers pull away: The next two quarters were monotonous, with Southern Columbia scoring at will and York Catholic’s offense stalling.

The Tigers scored three second-quarter touchdowns to enter halftime up 42-7 and ignite the running clock.

“We knew we were playing a very good team,” YC quarterback Mitchell Galentine said. “We weren’t intimidated. We knew we were going to come out and give them everything we had. But, obviously, they’re a very good program with good players and coaches.”

Gavin Garcia scored the first touchdown of the second quarter from 21 yards out after a 44-yard completion from Hollenbach to Fleming put the Tigers in York Catholic territory. Hollenbach threw for his last touchdown of the game a few minutes later on a short pass to Preston Zachman, who juked an Irish defender and ran free for the 72-yard score. Gavin Garcia, who rushed for 104 yards rushing, scored from 2 yards out to end the first half’s scoring.

Late scores: Gavin Garcia ran for 60 yards on the first play of the second half to set up a 2-yard Gaige Garcia touchdown. Gaige Garcia, who totaled 183 yards on the ground, scored again three minutes later from 92 yards out.

York Catholic scored twice late in the game, both Galentine rushing touchdowns. Galentine, a sophomore who split time at quarterback with Burns, played most of the second half under center. He scored from 1 yard out to cap a 65-yard drive in the third quarter and then from 5 yards out to finish a 72-yard drive. Galentine totaled 63 yards rushing on 13 carries.

“We liked what we saw with Mitchell getting some carries,” Depew said. “I thought he had some good things. He had some good reads. He did well.”

Southern Columbia will play in its 18th straight PIAA Class 2-A semifinal next week against West Catholic, the District 12 champion.

Scoring

York Catholic                   7           0        8          8          —          23

Southern Columbia        22        20       14         0          —          56

First quarter

Southern Columbia: Julian Fleming 49-yard pass from Stone Hollenbach (Ethan Dunkelberger kick), 9:18 (SC 7, YC 0)

York Catholic: Benjamin Nelson 14-yard pass from Wes Burns (Nicholas Demarco kick), 8:13 (SC 7, YC 7)

Southern Columbia: Fleming 12-yard pass from Hollenbach (Dunkelberger kick), 5:23 (SC 14, YC 7)

Southern Columbia: Gaige Garcia 55-yard run (Gavin Garcia pass from Dunkelberger), (SC 22, YC 7)

Second quarter

Southern Columbia: Gavin Garcia 21-yard run (Dunkelberger kick), 7:18 (SC 29, YC 7)

Southern Columbia: Preston Zachman 72-yard pass from Hollenbach (Dunkelberger kick), (SC 36, YC 7)

Southern Columbia: Gavin Garcia 2-yard run (Dunkelberger run failed), 1:10 (SC 42, YC 7)

Third quarter 

Southern Columbia: Gaige Garcia 2-yard run (Dunkelberger kick), 11:06 (SC 49, YC 7)

Southern Columbia: Gaige Garcia 92-yard run (Dunkelberger kick), 8:23 (SC 56, YC 7)

York Catholic: Mitchell Galentine 1-yard run (Noah Kiel pass from Galentine), 5:22 (SC 56, YC 15)

Fourth quarter

York Catholic: Galentine 5-yard run (Burns pass from Galentine), 9:40 (SC 56, YC 23)

Team stats

York Catholic:

Total offense: 235 yards (84 passing, 151 rushing)

Takeaways: 2

Penalties: 4

Sacks: 0

Southern Columbia:

Total offense: 619 yards (248 passing, 369 rushing)

Takeaways: 3

Penalties: 7

Sacks: 0

Individual stats

York Catholic:

Wes Burns: 2-10 passing, 17 yards, TD, 2 INT; 2 carries, 24 yards; 2-point conversion reception

Mitchell Galentine: 4-8 passing, 67 yards; 13 carries, 63 yards, 2 TDs

Cole Witman: 8 carries, 58 yards

Massimo Antolick: 8 carries, 6 yards

Manuel Montes: 2 receptions, 12 yards

Benjamin Nelson: 1 reception, 14 yards, TD; INT, FR

Noah Kiel: 3 receptions, 58 yards, 2-point conversion

Andrew Adams: 1 carry, 9 yards

Southern Columbia: 

Stone Hollenbach: 8-10 passing, 248 yards, 3 TDs, INT; 3 carries, 13 yards

Julian Fleming: 5 receptions, 146 yards, 2 TDs

Preston Zachman: 3 receptions, 102 yards, TD

Gaige Garcia: 10 carries, 183 yards, 3 TDs, fumble

Gavin Garcia: 5 carries, 104 yards, 2 TDs; 2-point conversion reception

Ty Roadarmel: 4 carries, 29 yards

Jayden McCormick: 5 carries, 2 yards

Brayden Heim: 6 carries, 28 yards

Brandon Gedman: 1 carry, 12 yards

Team: 2 carries, minus-2 yards

Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at jmeyer@yorkdispatch.com

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