HARRISBURG - Slightly less than a month ago, Mifflin County football was as bright and shiny as a Vegas casino.
Undefeated at 4-0. Running downhill as if it was on a 45-degree incline. Confident. Strong.
Four weeks later, the Huskies are diametrically opposite. After a thorough 34-14 loss Friday night to a revived Central Dauphin East program at George "Speed" Ebersole Stadium, Mifflin County will drag a 4-4 record into the final two weeks of the regular season.
Sentinel photo by LARRY YOHN
Mifflin County’s Heath Hidlay (5) carries the ball against Central Dauphin East Friday.
Just four days removed from a physical 14-point loss to Cumberland Valley, the Huskies left Harrisburg drained and, critically, searching for the self-esteem that had been their constant companion throughout the month of September.
Held to just 21 net rushing yards, its lowest output of the season (130 versus Cumberland Valley), by a swarming Central Dauphin East defense, Mifflin County never had a grip on a Mid-Penn Conference Commonwealth opponent for the first time this season.
And that is reason for concern for Mifflin County coach George Miskinis.
"We have to regroup, we have to be ready for State College," Miskinis said of the Huskies' next opponent. "We have to be really ready."
The good news for Mifflin County (4-4, 1-4 Commonwealth) is that it will finish the season at friendly Mitchell Field, starting with State College next Friday and ending with a dangerous Chambersburg team on Nov. 1.
And it will have a regular week to prepare for the Little Lions, something it was not afforded this week when the Cumberland Valley game was moved to Monday due to inclement weather.
"I didn't think (the CV game on Monday) was affecting us until midway through the third quarter," Miskinis said. "Then we started to see the effects of the physical nature of that game. And this one."
Nowhere was the reflected more than the rather surprising advantage CD East, its confidence growing under new head coach Aaron Blanding, engineered defensively.
The Panthers (5-3, 3-2 Commonwealth) completely muffled Mifflin County's rushing offense, which previously the gear shift stuck permanently in "Drive."
That net of 21 rushing yards on 33 attempts was deflated by six sacks worth 46 wrong-way yards, but the Huskies didn't have a lot of success going the other direction, either. The Panthers' defense stopped nine regular ol' rushing attempts either behind the line of a scrimmage or for no gain.
The only double-digit run was a well-blocked 29-yard power sweep by Heath Hidlay (12 carries for 39 yards) that set up the Huskies' first score in the second quarter when the game was still technically up for grabs.
But only technically. East was as solid on offense as it was on defense, led by the 172 yards rushing and one touchdown by Panther senior Chase Edmonds.
East scored on its first offensive possession, a snappy 50-yard drive set up by a 40-yard kickoff return by Raekwon Purdy (who would be heard from again in short order). Edmonds did most of the damage, but CD East quarterback Jahad Neibauer did the honors with a five-yard scramble for the touchdown at the 7:10 mark.
Then, after East kicker Sean Orlando was just short on a 44-yard field goal attempt on the first play of the second quarter, Purdy hauled in a punt after an ineffective series and tiptoed down the left sideline for 64-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Mifflin County recovered and used a booming 54-yard punt by John Michael Maclay to the East 9 to flip the field. That sparked an excellent defensive series by the Huskies, a punt that never crossed midfield and four straight runs by Hidlay, including the aforementioned 29-yarder, that terminated with Hidlay's three-yard score with 4:59 left in the first half.
Andrew Traxler's kick made it 14-7 and a new ballgame, but only for two minutes. East, again led by Edmonds, swept downfield quickly, going 65 yards in six plays, scoring on Neibauer's 27-yard pass to Gevante Elam to make it 21-7 with 2:55 to go.
Mifflin County couldn't know it at the time, but the Huskies would not see East territory again until just before the start of the fourth quarter, but by that time the Panthers had extended the lead to 34-7 on an eight-yard scoring run by Edmonds and another 27-yard scoring pass by Neibauer, this time to Purdy.
The Huskies tacked on a late score behind backup quarterback Trey Hartsock, who completed four of five passes for 59 yards, including a one-yard score to Maclay with 1:56 to play.
"We didn't match their intensity," Miskinis said. "We did for a while and it worked well for us, but after that we just couldn't match them."