HIGHLAND PARK - Past performance is often no predictor of future results, but Saturday's playoff game with McDowell was an identity changer for Mifflin County and its football program.
The Huskies battled a tough McDowell team in conditions that resembled the Ice Bowl. For those too young to remember - ask your parents about the Packers-Cowboys 1967 NFL Championship game where the temperatures were 15 below at game time with wind chills measured at 48 below.
It wasn't that bad at Mansell Stadium Saturday night, but it sure felt like it. By the third quarter, the temp fell to 12 degrees with a wind chill of five below. The wind bit hard. The snow squalls limited visibility. The cold was maddening. In other words, it was the type of game old school footballers would love.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE?BOYER
John Michael Maclay, left beats Jeremy Herman of McDowell, right on a 74-yard touchdown reception.
Truth be told, the Huskies are a better team than McDowell (Erie). It's true. The best team doesn't always win. If the game was played ten times, Mifflin County would win eight of those.
Time after time, McDowell tried to bust it up the gut and time after time Jesse Rodgers, Colton Craig and company stopped them dead in their tracks. The Trojan passing game was non-existent. They managed only one true drive and their biggest play from scrimmage was a 28-yard reverse.
Solid defensive play by the Trojans and Husky miscues are what kept McDowell in the game.
The problem with Mifflin County, just like it was during its six-game losing skid, is inconsistency. The Huskies can wow you with their size, physicality and athletic ability one minute. The next they'll frustrate and exasperate you with turnovers, dumb penalties and mental mistakes.
Inconsistency reared its ugly head once again and at the most inopportune times. McDowell turned the ball over in its first two possessions, but Mifflin County managed only three points. The delay of game penalty in overtime, two procedure penalties that killed a drive in the second quarter, and a personal foul call stopping a third quarter drive were just some of the momentum killing moments on display.
The loss was tough for Mifflin County to take, but it's all part of the growing pains a program must go through when aspiring for elite status.
It's a goal that can and should be attained. The McDowell game may well be the birth of Mifflin County into a consistent winner.
Provided the coaching staff and returning players take the lessons learned from this year's playoff run and build on the foundation already established. There is no reason for head bowing. The Huskies played hard and left it all out on the field. They should be proud of their performance.
Mifflin County proved it can be a perennial playoff participant. Records don't even matter. Not with who they play.
The Mid-Penn schedule makes the Huskies tough, battle-tested, and ready for the playoffs. The Commonwealth conference is a godsend for the program. Any talk of leaving the Mid-Penn should be silenced. Staying there will only make Mifflin County better. Central Mountain and DuBois can't or won't play a schedule like that. State College, also a Commonwealth member, should be the main competition in district play.
In order to win you must experience failure. The kind of failure like the one on Saturday.
Failure is the great teacher. Adversity the master artisan to a better future. Mifflin County faced adversity off all types this season and the kids learned from it and grew as individuals and as a team. Growth, experience, dealing with setbacks, and determination are what winners are made of.
The Huskies may have lost to McDowell, but nothing can take away what they accomplished this season a district championship and a competitive playoff run.
Now the hard part begins. Turning this one time feat into an every year occurrence. Losing seniors like Heath Hidlay, Craig, John Michael Maclay, Kyle Kahley and Curtis Jerzerick will hurt. They are solid leaders and fine young men. Churn is part of the process every high school program goes through. Even the elite ones.
Reloading is the name of the game and Mifflin County returns Rodgers, Keith Fetterhoof, Christian Hagans, Colton Copenhaver, Jared Michaels, Jadon Boyer, Brice Christine, Hunter Walker and Trey Hartsock to build upon. The cupboard is definitely not bare.
The best way to get started is to get started. Life rewards action, not reaction. Head coach George Miskinis and his staff have a golden chance in front of them to build a championship program, at least at the district and regional level, on a yearly basis. It is most definitely possible. The 2013 Huskies proved that.
Mifflin County can and should be a football power. The resources are available. All it takes is the will, confidence and persistent dedication to make it happen.