By Brian Holtzapple
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — When Selinsgrove got penalized midway through the first quarter for having an ineligible receiver downfield on a passing play, the foul turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Seals.
However, the penalty ended up being a punch in the gut for Mifflinburg, which got the 20-yard screen pass from Isaiah Rapp to Zach Adams nullified.
Despite being pushed back five yards on the flag, Selinsgrove made Mifflinburg pay on the very next play as Rapp tossed a 47-yard touchdown pass to Adams.
“We came out and saw that Mifflinburg was manned up, and we just put Zach out there at wide receiver and threw it to him. It was a great throw and a great catch. It was a nice effort.”
The Seals would score again moments later before taking a 21-6 Heartland-I victory over the Wildcats on a muggy Friday night at Harold L. Bolig Memorial Field.
The victory was far from a perfect one for Selinsgrove (1-0), but a win is a win regardless.
“A win (to start the season) is great and that’s what our team needs, no question about it, but I was concerned with our lack of ability to sustain drives,” said Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess. “We had a couple of big plays there, and the scores came off the big plays.”
Following Adams’ 47-yard touchdown catch, the Seals took a 14-0 lead with under a minute to go in the opening period when sophomore speedster Angelo Martin dashed for a 59-yard touchdown.
“When you’re playing a team like Selinsgrove, they’re fast. They play to the ball fast and they’re quick no matter where you’re at — inside or outside — and they move quickly to the ball,” said Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler. “You got to take advantage of every play. Our execution wasn’t there in order to capitalize (on their mistakes), so it is what it is.
“Selinsgrove is a good, solid team obviously, and we just have to come back and get ready for Shikellamy next week,” added Dressler.
In the second half Selinsgrove continued its ground assault as the Seals built their lead to 21-0 late in the third quarter when Conner Liesenfeld scored on a tough, three-yard run.
But twice in the fourth quarter Selinsgrove got the ball inside the 10-yard line and fumbled it away.
“Later in the game I was real disappointed that we gave up a couple of fumbles down in the red zone,” said Hess. “We have to clean that up, and defensively we need to learn to defend the pass better and get more pressure on the quarterback.”
Mifflinburg (0-1) wasn’t much better when it came time to punching the ball into the end zone, either.
The Wildcats got inside the red zone twice in the first half, and three times overall in the game. They came away with a mere six points when Jordan Wagner threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Sam Wright as time expired in the fourth quarter.
“Anytime you get in the red zone, you need to finish it,” said Dressler. “We were already behind (in the first half) and we needed to put the ball in the end zone, and we didn’t do that.”
The lack of offensive production wasn’t for a lack of trying for Wagner, a junior first-year starter. He completed 19-of-29 passes for 187 yards.
“It wasn’t a bad start (for Jordan). When we started opening up the passing game he was able to connect numerous times and get the ball moving,” said Dressler. “Selinsgrove’s linebackers flowed to the outside and made it very difficult for us to move the ball on the ground – so that’s why we opened up the passing game.”
Selinsgrove got the bulk of its yards (362) on the ground, with Martin leading the way with 114 yards on 13 carries. Liesenfeld added another 95 yards on 10 carries.
“I’d like a little more consistency, but the running game was good,” said Hess. “There is a whole lot of improvement to be made, but it is stuff that is doable.
“I’m happy with the win, we’ll take it.”