Mifflin County Tomahawks to start shortened season Saturday
LEWISTOWN – Normally this time of the year, Mifflin County Tomahawks co-owner and coach Brian Rodgers prepares for next season.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, nothing about 2020 is normal.
Covid-19 wiped out the start of the Great American Football Association (GEFA) season back in March when shutdowns were imminent.
Fast forward to the present, and the Tomahawks kick off a virus-shortened season Saturday at 7 p.m. under the lights at Rec Park against the Montour Maniacs. The league will play six games instead of the usual 10, plus the playoffs.
“I’m excited. It’s always special when we play under the lights at Rec Park. I’m excited to do something. Our town needs this, the people need this, and Mifflin County needs this. Everybody is on edge about what’s next,” Rodgers said. “Everybody is thirsting for that sense of normalcy and this could answer that question and bring it home. We hope people will come out and support us.”
Keeping the players safe is of the utmost importance, and Rodgers said the league is doing everything in its power to make that happen.
“We have things we are doing. Players are getting their temperature checked before each game. It’s not a perfect scientific situation, but we are doing what we can,” Rodgers said. “Every player has to bring a towel. There will be no sharing of towels. Each guy has to bring his own water source. There will be no sharing of any resource, and that’s about all we can do. We’ll try to make the best of the situation.”
The abbreviated schedule brings a heightened sense of urgency in every game. One bright spot is most of the Tomahawks home games are in the evening.
“Every game is the playoffs. The league is taking the top four seeds for the playoffs, so you can’t have a letdown. We have to stay focused. Every game counts and every play counts,” Rodgers said. “Every home game is a night game for us except the Jaguars, so we have a captive audience. The weather will be cooler in the evening. We are the only game in town right now. If we can get all our Mifflin County peeps out, it will be a good thing.”
Massive defections last year produced plenty of fresh faces for the Tomahawks after years of stability. More newcomers dot the 32-man roster this season, but Rodgers believes they are ready for game action.
“We have some new faces and we’ve been practicing to work out the kinks. I’m excited. We need Saturday to happen. We’re waiting to get these guys out on the field ready to go,” Rodgers said. “The defense is ahead of the offense. That’s a broken record for me. I don’t know why that is, but it always seems to be that way. The defense came together so quick. In the last two weeks, the offense took major steps forward, which we needed. We’re headed in the right direction.”
Quarterback Shane Scott and receiver/returner Timmy Beck are back to lead the offense. Scott came over last year from Moshannon Valley to replace the departed Lashawn Brown. Beck, the former Husky standout, is a grizzled veteran for Mifflin County.
“We were fortunate to get him (Scott) and he has been a fantastic addition for us. He came in last year when we lost a ton of people and had to rebuild, and Shane helped us through some tough times,” Rodgers said. “He clicked with us and I’m looking forward to big things from Shane this season. Timmy is back and we are expecting big things from him once again in our offense.”
Linebacker/running back Kyle Kahley, defensive lineman Mason Sweitzer, and defensive back Chris McClellan return to lead the rugged Tomahawk defense.
“Chris is our head captain and an all-around solid leader. Mason is a force inside and Kyle is tough on both sides of the ball,” Rodgers said.
Despite going 5-5 in the regular season with all the new players, Mifflin County still advanced to the playoffs before falling in the first round.
The 2020 goals for Rodgers differ significantly from his back-to-back Keystone Bowl appearances of the past.
“Our goals are to improve on last year. We’re focusing on one game at a time. We’re not focusing on the playoffs or the Keystone Bowl. We’re focused on the Maniacs,” he said. “Every game is a must-win and we have to approach it one game at a time. We can’t look ahead.”
After months of stress and crippling uncertainty, a little light shines in the darkness. Thank heavens; football is back in Mifflin County.