Draw the line
LEWISTOWN – Football, despite its myriad complexities, can be broken down to this basic success formula: Win the line of scrimmage, and you win the game.
And that’s exactly what Mifflin County did in the second half against Central Mountain on Friday.
Tied 14-14 at the half, the Huskies dominated in the trenches by scoring 43 second half points to come away with a 57-35 victory over the Wildcats.
“I think our line stepped up tremendously. They took control and started to wear on them,” Mifflin County coach George Miskinis said. “As a matter of fact. I think we started to wear them down late in the second quarter with our final drive in the first half. You could see our line starting to take over the game and we were really starting to do what we wanted to do.”
The Huskies, now 3-0 on the season, rang up 424 yards of total offense, 337 coming on the ground against the inexperienced Wildcats, who dropped to 0-3 on the year.
“Not to make excuses but we have a bunch of young guys who are playing out of position,” Central Mountain coach Vincent Kishbaugh said. “I think if you count the starters tonight we had five sophomores and a freshman, so we have some growing pains and mistakes are going to happen. For the most part the kids played hard, but we have too many guys who are hurt and can’t get healthy.”
Mifflin County rotated a plethora of running backs during the contest with Heath Hidlay leading the way with 107 yards and two scores. Jadon Boyer (63 yards, one touchdown), Gage Reesman (50 yards) and Kyle Kahley (43 yards) also contributed to the ground attack.
Even more impressive is the Huskies won without starting quarterback Brice Christine, who left the game in the second quarter with a neck or head injury. Christine was carted off the field. No word was available on the extent of his injury.
“They ran hard. Our line sustained their blocks well. We did a nice job of cutting off the blitz and allowing our running backs to make the extra cut,” Miskinis said. “I’m real proud of our running backs and our line play and kudos to Hunter (Walker) for stepping in and playing for Brice (Christine).”
On the flip side, the Wildcats had only 55 yards on the ground, 144 total.
“The line of scrimmage was the key to the whole game, like it is in most games,” Kishbaugh said. “We could not run the football, plain and simple. They made us one-dimensional. We did not have a good game up front at all.”
One bright spot for Central Mountain was the play of captain Tyler Pavalko. The senior had seven catches for 39 yards and a touchdown and also collected 90 and 87-yard kickoff returns for scores. All told, Pavalko had 296 total yards of offense, counting return yardage.
“Pavalko is unbelievable. Just a great kid. A true football player,” Kishbaugh said. “There’s a lot of kids who play football, but he’s a real football player through and through. He does amazing things, week in and week out and that kid is going to have a bright future playing somewhere on Saturday.”
The Huskies struck first blood when Christine connected on a 44-yard scoring pass to Curtis Jerzerick on their opening drive. Andrew Traxler made the PAT for the 7-0 lead.
“We had some key plays in the passing game, especially with our dump pass in the middle,” Miskinis said. “There was nobody home in the middle and when there’s nobody home you can throw that to a receiver or shorten the throw and get it to the tight end or the tight slot. We went with the shorter throw because it’s safer.”
Following a Justin Neff pick of Tyler Walker, Pavalko tied the game with a six-yard touchdown catch from Bryce Bitner. Kathryn Myers buried the PAT to make it 7-7 with 6:23 left in the second quarter.
Mifflin County answered with an 11-play, 41-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard quarterback sneak from Walker to make it 14-7 with only eight seconds left in the first half.
The lead was short-lived when Pavalko took the ensuing kickoff 87 yards to make it 14-14 at halftime.
“The injury to Brice scared our kids and I said to the coaches at half that I never seen that kind of look on our team before,” Miskinis said. “I don’t think we took them lightly in the first half. We needed to get that mental block out of our heads after watching Brice get carted off the field. The kids started playing too cautiously after that and it lingered through the rest of the half.”
Mifflin County blew the game open with 22 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a commanding 36-14 advantage. Adding 21 more in the fourth was icing on the cake.
Jerzerick scored his second and third touchdowns of the game with a 43-yard pass from Walker and a 15-yard fumble return to paydirt. Throw in a safety and a Hidlay nine-yard score and just like that, the Huskies were in control. Jerzerick finished the game with two receptions for 87 yards and three scores.
“The stars aligned I guess tonight for me,” Jerzerick said. “We played rock-solid defense and our offense really started to pound them on the run. Then we just went to the two-tight end dump pass and it was open every time.
“We were pretty flat in the first half. Some of the starters were fired up but not all of them. Once we got to the second half we knew business had to be done.”
Mifflin County travels to Carlisle Sept. 20 to begin its Mid-Penn Conference schedule.