By Mike Ferlazzo
For The Daily Item
MONTOURSVILLE — Mifflinburg made no secret that it relished the rematch at Montoursville in Friday’s District 4, Class AA quarterfinal. The Wildcats felt as if they may have left one slip away in a 35-31 loss to the Warriors two weeks ago.
But Montoursville was also excited to see Mifflinburg in its playoff opener. Head coach J.C. Keefer said his players didn’t play their best in the earlier win and they looked forward to playing better in the rematch.
And that’s just what they did. The Warriors (10-1) looked very much like the district’s top seed as they drove for touchdowns on their first two possessions and executed well in all three phases of the game during a convincing 27-16 win.
“The final score may not look like that, but for 80 percent of the game, I felt pretty comfortable with what we were doing,” Keefer said. “Again, we fumbled deep in our territory to give them one of their scores, but really [if they didn’t do that], we were looking at a 27-3 football game. I’d like to tighten that up just a little bit more, but we really put three phases of the game together.”
The Warriors put both phases of their offensive game together — rushing for 134 yards and passing for 209. The run set up the play-action pass on their opening drive. Starting on the 50, the Warriors used three running plays to get to the Wildcat 35 before quarterback Griffin Dunne used a play fake to roll to his right and dump it off to tight end Wyatt Entz, who took it the rest of the way for the game’s opening score at 6:27 of the first.
Mifflinburg answered by driving 77 yards in just five plays to the Montoursville 6. But after two plays yielded no yards, quarterback Jordan Wagner was sacked for a loss of nine on third down, forcing the ’Cats to settle for a 31-yard Brett Luhrman field goal.
But the Wildcat defense had no answer for the Warriors, who drove from their own 27 to the Mifflinburg 36 in six plays, all but one on the ground. With the defensive backs creeping closer to the line of scrimmage, Dunne went play action again and found his slot, Curtis Miller, behind the defense for a 36-yard scoring pass and a 14-3 lead just 1:03 into the second.
“When you’re running the ball like that at four or five yards a clip and you see those safeties start creeping up and you hit ’em with a big play, that really takes a lot out of them,” Keefer said. “Now that safety’s going to stand there a little longer and we’re going to run the ball. And it really worked out for us tonight.”
“The bottom line was, playing the discipline and playing where we need to be playing with the run game — and the run game was going so well — play action just got us,” said Mifflinburg head coach Jason Dressler. “We knew we were going to give up some with the play action, but not quite as much as what happened tonight.”
Dunne would go on to complete 6 of 7 passes for 181 yards.
The Warriors continued their dominance on their first drive of the second half, going 66 yards in 12 plays with tailback Alec Rothrock going the final two to make it 20-3 at 6:14 of the third.
Mifflinburg would respond by driving to the Montoursville 15 before quarterback Devin Hendrix fumbled it away. But Dunne returned the favor at the Warrior 5 three plays later and Luhrman took a direct snap around the right side for the score on the next play to make it 20-10 at 2:06 of the third.
The ‘Cats looked like they would draw closer on their next drive, going from their own 39 to the Warrior 11. But another sack of Wagner forced a 37-yard field goal attempt by Luhrman, which went wide left.
Two plays later, Dunne went action again, finding Entz, who fought off several tacklers to rumble 75 yards down to the Wildcat 5. Rothrock delivered the knockout blow three plays later with the one-yard score.
Mifflinburg (5-6) added a late scoring pass from Hendrix to Patrick Crissman, but it was not enough for the ‘Cats, who saw a gritty season come to an end.
“This is probably one of the proudest Mifflinburg teams I’ve been a part of as far as never quitting — they never quit once in any games this year,” said Dressler. “These kids just showed perseverance in every single game and overcame a lot of adversity throughout the season. I’m just proud of their attitude and the team effort they gave all season long.”
Montoursville will host 9-2 Troy next Friday in a District 4, Class AA semifinal.