LEWISTOWN - The Huskies may have found themselves down 14-0 early. But Mifflin County was finally able to move the football for the first time in two weeks.
Two plays into the second quarter, Mifflin County was inside Central Dauphin's 30 with hopes of cutting the lead in half. But then a Shane Whalen pass was intercepted by Codie Zimmerman and returned 70 yards for a score. In the blink of an eye, Mifflin County was down 21-0.
From a possible 14-7 score for the Huskies to a nearly insurmountable deficit, the pick six started a downward spiral for Mifflin County (3-3, 1-2) and set the stage for Central Dauphin's 54-6 Commonwealth Division victory Friday night at Mitchell Field.
Sentinel photo by MATT?STRICKER
Mifflin County’s Tim Beck (11) looks for running room while being pursued by Central Dauphin’s Elijah Robinson (71) Friday in Lewistown. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
"This is two weeks in a row that a critical mistake in scoring position - where instead of getting back into the game - it turns and goes into a landslide against us," Mifflin County coach George Miskinis said.
Whalen's day wasn't spectacular - he finished with just five completions in 18 attempts. But a lot of that had to do with the pressure Central Dauphin (5-1, 3-0) was bringing up front. The Rams only finished with two sacks, but a hurried Whalen was an inaccurate one.
"We have a lot of respect for Whalen," Central Dauphin coach Glen McNamee said. "He made some good throws again tonight when he set his feet. We were able to get some pressure on him and that helped."
r Mifflin County visits Cumberland Valley Oct. 12
This is two straight weeks the Huskies failed to score a touchdown on offense. The only Mifflin County score was a third quarter blocked punt scooped up by Tory Mills for a touchdown.
Last week against Harrisburg, the Huskies couldn't contain the Cougars. Two plays into that tilt, Harrisburg was already up 7-0. But against the defending state champs, Mifflin County came out poised defensively.
Central Dauphin opened with a 14-play drive, taking nearly seven minutes off the clock. The Rams capped the opening scoring with a 6-yard touchdown from Drew Scales.
Then just as the Huskies did against Harrisburg, they proceeded to go three-and-out and turn the ball back to the Rams.
It only took Central Dauphin quarterback Brandon LaVia one play to get his squad back into the end zone after a 47-yard strike to Jordan Bowman. On the play, Mifflin County stacked the line and had no safety help deep. That led to Bowman getting a free break down the middle of the field, which made an easy completion for LaVia.
"Our safety was up on the line," Miskinis said. "He misread the release and the kid just took off. It was supposed to be man-to-man."
Then it was the play of the game that did Mifflin County in. The Huskies were working on a 10-play drive in the second quarter that started on their own 19. The decision to go for it on fourth-and-10 from the Rams' 31 was an easy one. But the result said otherwise.
Whalen rolled right and was smothered. Zimmerman was able to jump the pass fairly easy and send the Rams to a 21-0 lead.
"That was a big play and we were able to get pressure on him," McNamee said. "They got some big kids up front and we knew that was going to be a challenge. That particular play we came off the ball and got to him."
Mifflin County was able to move the ball much more efficiently than it had against Harrisburg. And though it doesn't show up on the scoreboard, there was certainly improvement.
"I think we gamed planned it pretty well," Miskinis said of the offense. "We had to have the pass set up the run and vice versa. If we're going to throw we have to pass protect better."
Central Dauphin, the defending PIAA Class AAAA champions, provided one of the most balanced offenses the Huskies had seen this season. The Rams threw for 188 yards - 152 from Lavia and rushed for another 200.
And after taking a 34-0 lead into the break, it was all cruise control for Central Dauphin.
But Mifflin County was still looking for its first points since nine minutes to play against Carlisle on Sept. 21. This game wasn't going to result in a win at this point, but the Huskies seemed to never quit.
Midway through the third quarter, Derrick Specht slipped through the Central Dauphin line on a punt attempt from inside the Rams' 20. He got a hand on the ball and Mills scooped it up and easily scored.
Up until that score, the Huskies played nearly 88 minutes without getting on the board.
Central Dauphin added two more scores in the fourth quarter - a Jake Notestine touchdown grab and Malachi Holmes' 65-yard touchdown with 25 ticks left on the Mitchell Field clock.
Miskinis knows in order for his squad to contend with these Mid-Penn schools it's all about limiting mistakes against quality football teams that don't make many mistakes.
"They're good," he said. "The whole thing with the Mid-Penn teams is that if you don't score (when you're) in the red zone they'll jump all over you the next series. We have to score and then get a stop."
Mifflin County travels to Cumberland Valley Oct. 12.