LEWISTOWN - With a winning record at 7-3 in the regular season, the Miffin County Tomahawks semi-professional football team has already accomplished one of its goals this season. Saturday, the Tomahawks will accomplish their second goal with a trip to the playoffs.
Seeded No. 4 in the Mountain Division of the Great Eastern Football Association, Mifflin County will travel to face the No. 1 DuBois Mountain Lions at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"It was our goal at the beginning of the year. We wanted to make the playoffs, and we wanted to have a winning season. So accomplishing that goal was really fulfilling for us," Tomahawks co-owner and Mountain Division Coach of the Year Brian Rodgers said.
To take the season beyond its current level of fulfillment, the Tomahawks will need to top the Mountain Lions, who are undefeated at 10-0, and who took a decisive win over the Tomahawks during the regular season, 46-13.
"They're loaded on both sides of the ball," Rodgers said.
One Mountain Lion in particular Rodgers cited as a threat is defensive end Justin Kurpeikis, who played at Penn State, then also had time with several NFL teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots.
Kurpeikis leads his team with 11.5 sacks in the regular season, so he has the potential to keep the Tomahawks' offensive line busy.
The Mountain Lions also have former Nittany Lion Jason Ganter, along with several athletes with playing experience from either the Indiana University of Pennsylvania or Clarion University, and Rodgers said it will be important to avoid unforced errors against DuBois on Saturday.
"I think last time offensively we just made too many mistakes and turnovers, and we need to eliminate that," he said.
Defensively, the Tomahawks are strong.
Rodgers said his team allowed the fewest points in the regular season, making this one of the Tomahawks' greatest strengths.
Rodgers also said it will also be key to get quarterback Jace Maurer, who is stepping in for injured starter Lashawn Brown, firing quickly in the game.
"We need to get Maurer into the flow of the game right off the bat, and use his legs and his arm," Rodgers explained.
Mauer has thrown for 13 touchdowns four interceptions, but he also knows how to use his feet, as he is second in the team behind former Husky Tim Beck with 245 yards rushing.
Two divisions exist in the GEFA - the Mountain Division and the Valley Division - and the top four teams from each qualify for the playoffs. For the Tomahawks, it will be the first time in their four years in Mifflin County to make these playoffs.
"We haven't been to the playoffs in probably five years," Rodgers explained (the Tomahawks used to be based in Millheim). "The very first year, everyone made it. Now that the league has grown, it's just the top four teams in each division."
If the Tomahawks win Saturday, they will go on to face the winner between the Susquehanna Valley Seminoles and the Tri-Town Braves for the Mountain Division title.
From there, the next game is the Keystone Bowl, which this year will be held at Rec Park.
"We're super excited. I think it's an opportunity for Mifflin County to experience what the GEFA is about," said Rodgers, who estimates to see between 200-300 fans at the Keystone Bowl.