Fans of Mifflinburg football have not seen a defense like this one in more years than they can remember.
Sadly, one of their biggest fans as well as a connoisseur of great defense, is not going to see it.
Former Mifflinburg head coach Roy Shifflet Jr. died this week at 73. His only glance at this Wildcat defense, which in five games has given up just nine of the 21 points allowed by the team, came in the team's first scrimmage in August. Failing health prevented him from returning to Wildcat Stadium.
"He will be sorely missed, that's for sure," said Jamie Sauers, who played for and coached with Shifflet, and also served as a head coach.
"The only reason I became a coach was because of him," added Sauers, whose son, Zach, is a sophomore wide receiver/linebacker for the Wildcats.
Jamie Sauers said that Shifflet, who also coached on staffs at Bucknell and Susquehanna universities, never stopped coaching, even long after retirement. At that scrimmage less than two months ago, he was giving Jamie advice on his son's technique.
Jamie said that Shifflet, if he were alive and able to attend the games, would still be telling anyone who would listen that if the defense sends a lot of pressure, they better make sure that the running back doesn't get past the line of scrimmage or there will be big trouble.
"He was always there for me in good times or bad times," Jamie added.
The 1956 Williamsport High and Bloomsburg State Teachers College graduate began his teaching career at Loyalsock in 1960 teaching social studies and also became the head football coach at Mifflinburg in 1964. Over the years, he also coached girls softball, girls basketball, baseball and wrestling and served as athletic director. He coached the Wildcats from 1964 to 1973 and again from 1976 to 1979. He tallied an overall record , and posted an overallkof 59-79-5 in the former West Branch Conference but his best years were 1967, 1970 and 1977 when he compiled three eight-win seasons with a record of 24-5-2. His 1977 team won the WBC B Division championship.
John Sumner, who also served on Shifflet's staff, said he got to know him very well and that he was "a good man and a good coach."
He said that Shifflet came back and helped the coaching staff on an unofficial basis for several years when Sumner was an assistant under Jamie Sauers.
Sumner said that Shifflet replaced head coach James Evanko after the 1963 season and, although the team went 9-9-2 under two seasons with Evanko, Shifflet came to the Mifflinburg job in the midst of a rebuilding program. His first season, when the Wildcats barely had enough players to field a full team, they finished 0-10.
Shifflet also served as an assistant for head coach Dick Reilly in 1997 and 1998.
Ray Pottios, the former Lewisburg head coach, whose teams went head-to-head with Shifflet's squads during the latter's entire career, said, "He was tough. He did not like to lose to Lewisburg."
Probably for that reason, and because it was a different time, the two veteran coaches didn't become friendly until later in their careers.
"We got more friendly toward the end," said Pottios, noting that the two of them spent time in the woods together looking for firewood.
Pottios said that outwardly, Shifflet "seemed like a rough, tough guy; but deep down he was a pretty nice guy.
"If you got to meet him on the street, one-on-one, he kind of changed. I guess football brings out sometimes the worst and the best in people," Pottios said.
Pottios recalled one particular game, won by Mifflinburg 3-0. "I remember the kids were intermingling with each other and he saw the football and he said, "Give me that damn football. I want it.' "
"Lewisburg-Mifflinburg was a big game, no question about it," Pottios said.
And Roy Shifflet was a big part of the central Pennsylvania football scene. As Jamie Sauers said, "He will be sorely missed."
— Assistant sports editor Harold Raker covers high school football for The Daily Item. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week's picks
Danville at Jersey Shore — The Bulldogs have been a pain for the Ironmen over the years and this particular squad could be on the verge of breaking through with a win. But not quite yet.
Danville 28, Jersey Shore 14.
Shikellamy at Selinsgrove — It has been said that this not an attractive game. Think again. Two longtime rivals in a battle for the best possible District 4 Class AAA seeding they can get? Shikellamy 20, Selinsgrove 14.
Towanda at Mifflinburg — A year ago, and after one of the longest bus rides anyone wants to take, the Wildcats wore down in the fourth quarter. These unbeaten Wildcats will get their revenge. Mifflinburg 21, Towanda 8.
Lewisburg at Montoursville — Here they go again, the Green Dragons are on the road, trying to bounce back from a loss of a game they probably should have won. Lewisburg 35, Montoursville 14.
Southern Columbia at Bloomsburg — It must be rivalry week in the Valley (see Shikellamy-Selinsgrove above and Line Mountain vs. Tri-Valley below). If the Tigers are not too wounded from last week’s meat grinder of a game at Bucknell, look for them to win this battle of unbeatens. Southern 28, Bloomsburg 20.
Line Mountain at Tri-Valley — These rivals have had many a great battle over the years, going back to the days (and beyond) when current Eagles coach Mike Carson was the boss in Hegins.
But this gritty bunch of Bulldogs, coached by Mike Kogut, are just a bit undermanned. Line Mountain 42, Tri-Valley 18.
Mount Carmel at Central Columbia — The Red Tornadoes have regrouped from the off-field incident that stripped them of some of their stars, but they better be ready to play against coach Jay Hippenstiel’s resurgent Blue Jays. Mount Carmel 28, Central Columbia 20.
Shamokin at Milton — The hungry Black Panthers took a step back last week and that won’t get it done against a veteran Indians’ defense hoping to carry its team back to the district playoffs. Shamokin 21, Milton 13.
South Williamsport at Warrior Run — It is Chris Eiswerth’s homecoming and, if the Defenders want to have a shot at a playoff berth of any kind, it would behoove them to spoil it. Warrior Run 20, South Williamsport 16.
Millersburg at East Juniata — The gauntlet is over for the Indians, playing three weeks in a row against the Twin Valley Conference elite. The Tigers are rumored to be coming back to the TVC next year, but this game will not make them want to hurry. Millersburg 42, East Juniata 6.
Pine Grove at Upper Dauphin — It doesn’t get much worse for coach Justin Adams’ young Trojans — oh, wait, they play Line Mountain next week. Things are going to get better in Elizabethville, but for now...Pine Grove 45, Upper Dauphin 8.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference: North Penn-Blossburg over Athens, Bucktail over Montgomery, Canton over Muncy, Nativity BVM over Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech, Cowanesque Valley over Freedom Village (N.Y.), Loyalsock over Hughesville, Troy over Sayre, Wellsboro over Wyalusing, Williamsport over Pittston, Mahanoy Area over Carson Long, Williams Valley over Halifax, Schuylkill Valley over Newport, Minersville over Jim Thorpe, North Schuylkill over Tamaqua, Pius X over University Prep and Schuylkill Haven over Shenandoah Valley.
Fans of Mifflinburg football have not seen a defense like this one in more years than they can remember.
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