By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG -- Blake Rankin admitted he thought about last year's District 4 Class AA first-round game, a disheartening one-point loss at Lewisburg.
It especially came up when host Mifflinburg forced a three-and-out to open Friday's District 4 Class AA quarterfinal, with Wildcats' star Connor Pierce nearly picking him off in Panther territory.
"It was definitely on my mind because we go right by Lewisburg to get here," the Bloomsburg senior quarterback said.
"It was on our mind, but we were determined to come out here and play the way we were capable of playing," he added.
Rankin and the Panthers made that first series ancient history as the visitors scored on their next four possessions and added a fumble recovery touchdown in the end zone by Mark Drumm for good measure. Despite some second-half outbursts by Mifflinburg, Bloomsburg advanced with a 48-21 victory at Wildcat Stadium.
The Rutgers University recruit, as he has done all season, burned the defense with his legs (126 yards and two touchdowns) and with his strong right arm (269 yards, four TDs).
Bloomsburg is not known for its defense but the Panthers made it tough going for the Wildcats up front until Mifflinburg (8-3) put together a 75-yard scoring drive on 10 plays, capped by Michael Wiand's 9-yard TD run to get the Wildcats within 21-7 with 5:55 left in the second quarter.
"I was really pleased with (the defense). The first couple series we were really aggressive, and we were wrapping up," said Bloomsburg coach Larry Sones. "And then they made a couple plays that put them right back into it. But it's high school football, these things happen."
It seemed like every time Mifflinburg was about to make a game of it, along came the Panthers' gunslinger to hit the 'Cats right between the eyes.