Armed and dangerous
LEWISTOWN – If an elite quarterback is the key to success in the game of football, there’s no telling where DuBois may be headed this season.
Beavers’ quarterback Gabe French dominated Mifflin County’s home opener Friday, passing for an almost-unheard-of 407 yards and seven touchdowns while adding another score on the ground in a show-stopping performance that led his team to a 61-38 victory at Mitchell Field.
The senior, who is being recruited by Ivy League schools, looked every bit the part of a Division I signal caller as he put on a performance the likes of which most in attendance had never seen, Mifflin County’s coach included.
“He’s a big-time quarterback,” Huskies coach George Miskinis said. “We couldn’t get to him. We couldn’t get him out of his comfort zone and when we were forcing him, he made some plays dumping it on the check downs on the crossing route.”
In the early going, French was seemingly returning volley each time the Huskies put points on the board.
A wild first quarter began with a solid seven-play, 71-yard scoring march in little more than three minutes that ended when Jadon Boyer plowed in from two yards out with 8:25 to go. Andrew Traxler’s perfect night of kicking began with an extra point that had the Huskies up 7-0.
But French showed a glimpse of what he had in store on his first drive. The Beaver senior stood tall in the pocket and hit on a pair of passes in addition to a couple of keepers for 48 yards – the second a 38-yard scamper that found pay dirt and tied the score.
The Huskies served up another touchdown on their next touch, set up by a 60-yard kickoff return from Tyler Schreiner and ended on his 4-yard plunge for a 14-7 lead.
But French, as he would all night, had the answer again. He needed just one play – a 64-yard dart down the field to Bryson Paulinellie for the first of four scoring passes between the two – to bring the visitors back even at 14.
As Mifflin County began its third drive, the first big momentum shift of the game happened as a fumble was recovered by DuBois, setting the table for the Beavers in Huskies territory.
DuBois converted a key fourth-and-inches play to begin the second quarter before the French connection to Paulinellie was on point for a second time. The Beaver quarterback lofted a perfect pass over the outstretched fingertips of Jared Michaels and into Paulinellie’s arms in time for him to get a foot down in the back corner of the end zone and give the guests their first lead at 20-14 after a failed extra point attempt.
“That’s a play where we’re hoping they were gonna be in cover 3 and we had a little 6-yard hitch route just trying to get the first down,” DuBois coach Frank Varischetti said. “(Mifflin County) came out in man-to-man and when we see man against that, that’s his automatic check. He made that himself, threw the ball and put it right where it needed to be. It was a great throw, great catch.”
The Huskies would not go quietly, though.
Hunter Walker showed everyone that French wasn’t the only QB who could throw a nice touch pass as he lofted a beauty to Michaels for a 20-yard scoring strike that, with Traxler’s kick, gave the Huskies a 21-20 lead with 8:02 to play in the second quarter.
“We have things to build off of,” Miskinis said of his team’s offensive effort. “It’s not like we have to go back to the drawing board and reinvent the wheel. … We just have to take our time and be patient with it.”
But French was just getting started.
He led two more scoring drives in the quarter – one a nine-play march that ended with his third TD toss to Paulinellie, the other on a 91-yard catch-and-run on a deep crossing route by Cole Kriner – that put 14 points on the board in a span of fewer than three game minutes.
The Huskies would show their resolve once more before the half, although it wasn’t exactly what Miskinis had hoped for. Mifflin County had the ball at the DuBois 8 before back-to-back negative plays forced the Huskies to settle for a Traxler 30-yard field goal as time expired to send the home squad to the locker room down 34-24.
“I think it was big that they stopped us down here,” Miskinis said. “Because the play before we kicked the field goal, we had a guy wide open in the end zone and couldn’t launch the ball. We didn’t pick up a blitzer on the outside.”
DuBois picked up right where it left off in the third quarter as French carved up the Huskies tiring defense with passes of 28 and 16 yards and a quarterback scramble for 15. The drive ended in the end zone once more as Kriner caught his second TD of the night to push the Beavers’ lead to 16 after the extra point try was blocked.
Mifflin County stayed alive with a score it had to have when Walker found Michaels again, this time for a 29-yard catch-and-run that pulled the Huskies to within nine.
But the dagger came not much later when French completed his sixth scoring pass of the night, finding Kevin Foley for a 35-yard score after hitting Kriner for 32.
And whatever slim chance Mifflin County had after that disappeared when the Huskies again fumbled the ball, this time on a bad handoff. Seven plays later, the fourth TD hookup from French to Paulinellie had put the game away.
“I looked at it, it was 40-31, we were down nine and I’m thinking ‘OK, we get a stop here and we’re right in this,'” Miskinis said. “And the next thing you know, they scored two times within a three-minute span and the game got out of reach, out of control real quick on us.”
Boyer found the end zone in the fourth quarter on a gutsy 21-yard run that saw him break multiple tackles. But the Beavers answered that, too, with a 48-yard touchdown run from Chad O’Donnell to close the scoring and push DuBois north of 600 total yards of offense on the night, setting the final in the process.
While the Beavers offense overwhelmed his defense, Miskinis is already looking forward to the next chapter in this developing rivalry.
“The idea is to see them in November and see who got better and who didn’t,” he said.
And the feeling is mutual.
“I think it’ll definitely happen,” Varischetti said about a possible playoff rematch. “It seems like neither one of us has been able to beat the other on our home field.”
Mifflin County (0-1) hosts Williamsport Sept. 5.