STATE COLLEGE - Once again, Mifflin County encountered the biggest hurdle it has faced throughout the 2013 season.
This time, the Huskies cleared that hurdle, overcoming a 26-20 fourth quarter deficit to beat State College 27-26 in a Districts 6-9 Class AAAA first-round playoff game.
"They played with a tremendous amount of heart," Mifflin County coach George Miskinis said. "We refused to lose tonight. That's the bottom line."
Sentinel photo by CHRISTOPHER?SHANNON
Mifflin County’s Heath Hidlay, center, follows his blockers to the end zone during the Huskies’ Districts 6-9 Class AAAA playoff victory of over State College Friday night at Memorial Field.
Heath Hidlay was a major reason for that. The senior running back carried 24 times for 155 yards and all four Mifflin County touchdowns as the Huskies ended their fourth quarter woes and held off State College's last ditch effort.
"It's thrilling," Hidlay said. "It's probably happened five times the other way and the other team beat us. It's thrilling just to come back and win that one."
Both teams started the evening as cold as it was outside.
Mifflin County advanced to the State College 38 before turning the ball over on downs.
State College returned the favor, getting to the Huskies' 29-yard line before turning the ball back over to Mifflin County.
After a Huskies 3-and-out, State College scored the game's first points, a one-yard Pat Irwin run to give them a 6-0 lead with 1:19 left in the first quarter.
The Huskies answered right back on the following possession.
They got a huge play to get them deep into State College territory when Hunter Walker hit John Michael Maclay for a 32-yard completion.
Mifflin County scored three plays later on Hidlay's one-yard touchdown plunge and took the lead on Andrew Traxler's extra point.
After trading punts, Mifflin County got a major swing in its favor. A John Michael Maclay punt was downed at the State College 8-yard line. The next play, a read-option play, went awry for Irwin, who fumbled, and Mifflin County took over at the State College 5.
From there, Hidlay scored his second touchdown of the quarter to give the Huskies a 14-6 lead.
State College answered back when Irwin hit John Weakland for a 42-yard touchdown pass. The two connected again on the ensuing two-point attempt to tie the game at 14-14.
Both teams experienced close calls right before the half. Walker was stripped for a fumble, which State College recovered.
The very next play, the Huskies got the ball right back. Irwin threw a jump ball that Maclay got position on and intercepted for Mifflin County.
The Huskies ran Hidlay one time and were content going into the half tied at 14-all.
Hidlay was a force for the Huskies in the opening half, carrying 13 times for 68 yards.
"He runs with a great deal of desire," Miskinis said. "He's a determined young man."
Hidlay answered the bell on the other side of the ball to start the second half. He intercepted a crossing route inside State College territory, setting up his own 13-yard touchdown run to give the Huskies a 20-14 lead.
But the extra point was blocked to keep the lead at six points. Mifflin County stopped Jordan Misher on fourth-and-3 at the Huskies' 12-yard line to keep the momentum in the Huskies favor with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter.
"Tonight we made the little plays," Miskinis said. "When we got on this losing streak, we weren't making the little plays."
Mifflin County couldn't capitalize on it however, going three-and-out on the next possession.
The Little Lions marched down the field for the tying score on Anthony Misher's 14-yard rushing touchdown. State College's extra point was blocked to keep the game at 20-all.
State College took the lead back with 4:37 to play when Jordan Misher scored from 11 yards out after a 53-yard Pat Irwin run.
After the ensuing kick was returned to the Huskies 36 by Jadon Boyer, Hidlay again took control. He snapped off a 46-yard run to set Mifflin County up inside the red zone.
He added his fourth touchdown of the night to tie the contest at 26 with 1:20 left to play.
"Obviously, I put it all on the line," Hidlay said. "I have to give credit to my offensive line of course."
Traxler hit the difference-making extra point to give Mifflin County the 27-26 lead. State College took the line-drive kickoff to the Huskies 48-yard line.
"We don't panic at the end," Miskinis said. "We try to stay as calm as possible. Our kids respond to that."
Boyer sacked Irwin for a huge 13-yard loss, which the Little Lions failed to make up when Irwin's pass to Derek Van Horn wasn't enough for the first down.
Walker knelt once to give Mifflin County the victory.