By Scott Dudinskie
For The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG — Jim Keiser and his Danville staff planned all week to run the football often in their game against Mifflinburg.
“That’s our offense,” Keiser said. “We want to eat clock. We want to have long, sustained drives to keep our defense off the field.”
However, virtually everything that happened Friday validated the game plan — to such a degree that the Ironmen all but abandoned the pass.
Sam Dressler and Isaiah Croll combined for 252 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Weston Baylor ran for a score and threw for another as Danville ran away with a 37-13 victory.
“It all starts up front,” said Dressler, who gained 162 yards on the ground, surpassing 3,000 career rushing yards. “Those guys work hard and they did everything (Friday).”
The Ironmen’s ground assault was tremendous from the start, covering 40 yards on the first four snaps. All 81 yards (save a 5-yard penalty) on their first scoring drive were earned via the run, with Dressler carrying five times for 63, including a 9-yard TD.
At halftime, Danville’s average was 5.9 yards per rush. After three quarters it was 7.2 on 39 attempts.
The Ironmen (4-0, 3-0 HAC-I) threw just seven passes in the game.
“That’s kind of how we play,” said Dressler. “We try to do that every game: Take off as much time as we can; take some pressure off our defense.”
Not only was the rushing attack successful, it was prudent.
Danville led 13-0 after eight minutes thanks to Matt Meloy’s 65-yard interception return for a score on Mifflinburg’s first series and Dressler’s touchdown.
But late in the quarter, after junior fullback Cole Walter gave the Wildcats some juice with 20 yards on three consecutive carries, Mifflinburg pinned Danville at the 1-yard line with a Andrew Leitzel punt. Patrick Crissman alertly downed the ball in the shadow of the goal.
Shortly after, with imposing nose guard Nazar Mironenko charging over the ball, the Ironmen mishandled a snap at the goal line and Dalton Walls recovered for a Mifflinburg touchdown.
Danville got a 45-yard kick return by Caleb Klein, which set up a 30-yard scoring strike from Baylor to Evan Tanner, their third TD hookup in two weeks.
Mifflinburg, though, answered with a 72-yard touchdown drive to pull within 20-13. Walter opened the series with four runs for 22 yards, and Devin Hendrix hit Brett Luhrman for 30 yards to the Danville 2. Walter’s burst and Luhrman’s PAT made it a one-score game. Walter finished with 59 rushing yards, while Hendrix threw for 160.
Danville opted to play defense with its rushing offense the rest of the half and through the third quarter, running it on 28 of 32 snaps. The Ironmen chewed up nearly five minutes late in the half with a drive capped by Baylor’s 6-yard keeper, and then possessed the ball for almost nine minutes of the third quarter, scoring twice. Croll gained 69 of his 90 yards in the third quarter, including his 29-yard TD.
“Any coach will tell you, the best way to keep the clock moving is to keep your offense on the field and keep grinding it out,” said Wildcats coach Jason Dressler. “That certainly was to their advantage.”
Mifflinburg (2-2 overall and HAC-I) was penalized nine times for 50 yards. The Wildcats committed five offsides penalties (four in the first half) that aided four Danville touchdown drives.
“Danville’s obviously a very solid, experienced team (and) you can’t make those mistakes,” said Jason Dressler. “You can’t turn the ball over like that (three interceptions), plus the little things: not tackling well, not playing an assignment well, not holding blocks long enough. It adds up. Big time.”