HARRISBURG - It didn't take long for Mifflin County to realize what it will be dealing with in the Mid-Penn Conference.
In its first road contest in the Commonwealth Division, the Huskies were outrun, outplayed and outperformed by Harrisburg High School. The biggest factor was speed.
The Huskies buried themselves in a 24-0 hole just 12 minutes in. The only thing left to look forward to was a mercy rule. The speed was costly for Mifflin County as Dominique Shurns and Robert Martin each had a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter en route to a 38-0 win over the visiting Huskies.
Shurns and Martin provided the pop for the Cougars. Just five touches for Harrisburg into the Mid-Penn tilt, the Cougars already had four scores. Shurns returned a pair of punts - 58 yards and 77 yards - for touchdowns. On the second play from scrimmage, Martin blasted up the middle 84 yards for a touchdown.
"I don't know if it was a panic on our part or what," Mifflin County coach George Miskinis said. "Today they took a lot of things away from us that we do well."
Martin finished with 178 yards on only five carries. The running game for the Cougars totaled 258 yards on 24 carries, most of which came in the first half.
IF YOU GO
* Mifflin County hosts Central Dauphin Friday
As good at the Harrisburg running game was, Mifflin County's was completely blown up by the Cougar defense. With a trio of state-caliber linebackers, including Joe Adams and Chris Britton, the pass rush from the edge was something the Huskies just couldn't handle.
"Their ends and linebackers did a great job early in the option," Miskinis said. "We were reading (Adams) and instead of attacking he kind of stepped back and caught us off guard. That's something we haven't seen."
Mifflin County's signature option was devastated by the Harrisburg defense. So Mifflin County had to figure something out to try and move the ball. With improved quarterback Shane Whalen at the helm, the Huskies went to the air.
Whalen attempted 26 passes, the most he has in a game this season, but completed only six. However, when he did complete those passes, Mifflin County was able to move the ball well.
John Michael Maclay caught two passes for 36 yards. The biggest play of the game for the Huskies came on a connection between Whalen and Maclay for 31 yards in the third quarter. But one thing that hurt the Huskies on many drives were dropped passes.
At one point, the Husky receivers dropped five straight passes. They also struggled to get to the first down stick. On three separate occasions in the second half, the Huskies completed a third down pass but were short of the sticks.
"That's just not knowing what we need for the first down," Miskinis said. "They have to understand you have to take those two extra steps to get the distance for the first down. They were drive killers."
With a score of 24-0 after the first quarter, Harrisburg kept pouring it on the visitors. On the first play of the second quarter, Cougar quarterback Kyle Cook connected with Marcel Brown from five yards out to make it 32-0.
And that's how the game would go into the half. But the Huskies had a drive going prior to turning the ball over on downs. Inside two minutes to go in the half, the Huskies faced a third-and-24 from the Cougar 40. Whalen hit Jack Wagner for 19 yards up to the 21. But Whalen's fourth down pass was incomplete. That was the deepest Mifflin County got all game.
There was only one score for Harrisburg in the second half. But that was certainly a highlight.
The Huskies were rolling the pocket away from Adams most of the game. But on a first down from their own 31, Mifflin County would give the final score to the Cougars. Adams came off the edge and Whalen rolled right into him. As the Husky quarterback turned, Adams stripped the ball and scampered 60 yards for the touchdown.
"We were trying to get the edge to see to throw to the outside," Miskinis said. "That was a pass and he came through clean. When Shane set his feet he was right there."
This was Mifflin County's first game of one of the toughest three-game stretches in the state. Central Dauphin, the defending Class AAAA champion, travels to Mifflin County Friday. The next weekend, the Huskies travel to Cumberland Valley.
"We need to go back to work," Miskinis said. "We have to find things we do well. We have to go back and work on the basic stuff and try and correct our errors. We'll see how that carries over to Central Dauphin."