By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
The math just wasn’t adding up for coach Jason Dressler’s Mifflinburg Wildcats on Friday night.
The Wildcats were running the ball effectively with quarterback Kyle Failor and halfback Brett Luhrman. But the visiting Panthers had the Klingermans.
While the Wildcats were deliberately marching down the field, the Panthers, led by quarterback Ricky Klingerman and his cousins, brothers John and Colby Klingerman, were hitting the big plays. The result was a 39-22 Bloomsburg victory in the Heartland Athletic Conference crossover game.
“They gained big chunks with their pass game,” Dressler said. “We knew that coming in. You can get three incomplete passes but that fourth one, they can get big chucks.”
“I am proud of the way the kids came out in the second half and stuck to the grind, the line kept saying run behind us and they did a good job and put it in the end zone. That’s what we wanted to see.”
Added his counterpart, coach Larry Sones, “We were concerned about Mifflinburg and that spread offense. They had played everybody tough. Offensively there were somethings we could do, and coach (offensive coordinator Dave) Fortunato put together a nice game package, and we were able to execute that and keep the upper edge.”
John Klingerman made some highlight reel catches, something Sones has watched him do the last four years. “From the time he was a freshman, he was just exciting to watch. He makes plays but he is the hardest worker we have at practices. He’s got talent, but he works at it, too.”
Nevertheless, the Wildcats, despite having two long touchdowns called back by penalties, managed to put themselves in position to make a game of it.
After falling behind quickly 13-0, Mifflinburg appeared to pull to within one score but a penalty nullified a 29-yard TD run by Failor, with a block by tackle Nazar Mironenko.
Two series later, the visitors (6-2) made it 19-0 on a Ricky Klingerman 11-yard pass to a wide-open John. The Wildcats (2-6) answered with a 73-yard TD run by Failor with 3:35 left in the second.
They had a chance to close it to five but John Klingerman stripped a ball carrier and recovered the fumble. What happened coming out of halftime was a key to the win, Sones said.
The Panthers got a short field as they forced a three-and-out, and a high snap led to punter Victor Suquet punting the ball out of bounds, setting Bloomsburg up at the Mifflinburg 28.Fortunato went right for the jugular. As if John Klingerman wasn’t dangerous enough, the Panthers snapped directly to the senior wideout and he glided through defenders for a 28-yard score.
Jon Nixon’s PAT made it 26-7 with 9:42 to go in the third.
Sones said the strip by John Klingerman and the special team mistake to open the second half were two big plays in the game.
Yet there was no quit in the Wildcats, who mounted another nice drive, all on the ground, marching 65 yards on 18 plays with Failor sneaking for a one-yard TD. A mishandled snap by Failor on the PAT try worked out in the Wildcats’ favor as Failor kept his composure and hit tight end Toby Boyer for a two-point conversion pass to make it 26-15 with 2:44 left in the third.
The euphoria was short lived, however, as the Klingerman’s took barely a minute to cover 80 yards for another score. John went into the Wildcat formation again, but this time he fired a pass for 22 yards to Zach Ashford. After Ricky Klingerman fumble and recovered for no gain, he hit 26 yards and Ricky for another 25 and Sam Miller capped it off with a 5-yard run for a 32-15 advantage.
An interception by Bloomsburg’s Tyler Vincent set up the final Panthers’ TD, a 21-yard pass from Ricky Klingerman to Colby.
Mifflinburg scored on what would be it’s final play, when Devin Hendrix hit Failor in stride down the right sideline for a 77-yard score.
Dressler added he was proud of how well his players hung in after having two TDs nullified and playing the Panthers after losing starting cornerbacks Dustin Mertz and Daniel Danowsky last week.