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Maniacs too much for MC in opener

Sentinel photo by WILLIAM WHISLER
Mifflin County running back Kyle Kahley shrugs off multiple Montour defenders as he fights for more yardage in a GEFA game on Saturday at Rec Park. Kahley finished with 35 rushing yards in the 24-19 loss to the Maniacs.

LEWISTOWN –The Mifflin County Tomahawks scored first, but a sluggish night on offense and a big night from Montour’s Derek Watts doomed the Tomahawks in their season opener as they fell 24-19 to the Maniacs in a Great Eastern Football Association contest at Rec Park on Saturday night.

The Maniacs scored 18-unanswered points to build an 18-6 lead behind three touchdown receptions — two of which were caught by Watts — before Mifflin County found any sort of rhythm offensively. Mifflin County stalled out on multiple drives and six turnovers proved to be too much to overcome.

“We just didn’t play good football from the kickoff on,” Tomahawks coach Brian Rodgers said. “We gave up big plays, we didn’t make many big plays on offense and we never got in a rhythm. When you don’t do that, you lose ball games.”

Mifflin County got on the board at the 8:35 mark of the second quarter as quarterback Timmy Beck found some room on a keeper down the Tomahawks’ sideline and cruised past the secondary on his way to end zone from 10 yards out to give Mifflin County a 6-0 lead.

Montour answered with an 8-yard TD catch by Aquil Lee and a desperation pass on the final play of the first half from Travis Brown resulted in a 16-yard TD reception by Watts to give the Maniacs a 12-6 lead at the break. Brown finished 8-of-18 for 110 yards and three scores in the victory.

Sentinel photo by WILLIAM WHISLER
Mifflin County's Timmy beck, right, celebrates with teammate Lou Banks after scoring a TD in the first quarter on Saturday.

A busted halfback pass play gave the Maniacs the ball back at the end of the first half as Kyle Kahley’s pass was tipped an intercepted to set up Watt’s score. Tomahawks quarterback Shane Scott had a night to forget, completing 7-of-15 passes for 44 yards and three interceptions.

“I’ll have to watch the film, but it looked like on one play the guy was out of bounds and another one was clearly a push off,” Rodgers said of the Maniacs big pass plays. “If one of those goes our way, there’s six points off the board. I can’t really blame the defense, I think overall they did a very good job and they got some stops, but offensively we’ve got to get it together.”

The Maniacs began to force the Tomahawks into multiple mistakes in the third quarter, as turnovers killed Mifflin County on offense. Scott was pressured throughout the evening, leading to multiple interceptions. Scott was also sacked twice.

Mifflin County’s running game lost steam in the third quarter after strong starts by Kahley and Beck. The duo combined for 70 yards on the ground, but two of Mifflin County’s promising drives ended in turnovers.

“No one to blame but ourselves in this one,” Rodgers said. “We had every opportunity to win, we just didn’t win.”

Despite offensive woes, Mifflin County fought back into the game with a 1-yard TD run by Mason Sweitzer, who bullied his way into the end zone to cut the Maniacs’ lead to 18-12 with 3:43 left in the third quarter. The Tomahawks caught a huge break with 2:58 left in the game when Charles Foust forced a fumble that was recovered by Chase Pitts in the end zone for a Mifflin County TD to give the Tomahawks new life. The TD and a one-point conversion pass from Scott to Sweitzer made it 24-19 Maniacs.

Mifflin County then forced another turnover, as Brandon Wilson recovered a fumble by Brown as the rain that started midway through the fourth quarter began to pick up. With the Maniacs back against their own goal line, Montour dug deep and forced Mifflin County to turn the ball over on downs when Scott’s pass on fourth down was swatted away with less than a minute to play. The Tomahawks failed to get the ball back with one timeout left as the Maniacs drained the clock to seal the victory.

Despite the loss, Rodgers was pleased with his team’s ability to fight through turnovers to have a chance to win at the end. Rodgers hopes that the team will learn quickly from its mistakes, as the GEFA shortened the regular season because of COVID-19. With a group of 15 rookies, Rodgers is looking for growth in the coming weeks.

Mifflin County hits the road on Saturday for a matchup with the Upper Dauphin Comanche.

“We have to have a short-term memory and come back next week,” Rodgers said. We have to go hard at it and realize it’s a six-game season and try to come back and do our thing. As long as we keep building toward the end of the year, I’m happy.”

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