By Brian Holtzapple
For The Daily Item
BLOOMSBURG — If opposing teams thought Bloomsburg was a one-man show with quarterback Ricky Klingerman, they would be mistaken.
Klingerman, who was injured in last week’s blowout loss to Southern Columbia, did not play in Friday’s Heartland crossover matchup with Mifflinburg on Friday.
Instead, the combination of backup quarterback Tyson Thrush and wide receiver Colby Klingerman took control of the Panthers’ offense.
Klingerman passed for 57 yards and ran for another 88 to lead Bloomsburg to a 24-13 victory on senior night at Panther Stadium that gave the hosts some much-needed district playoff points.
“Obviously, Bloomsburg has play-makers and we knew they have two Klingermans, and we knew they were going to get the ball in (Colby’s) hands one way or another — whether that would be at receiver, running back or quarterback,” said Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler said. “He’s an athlete, and that’s a team of athletes and they got the job done tonight.”
Thrush started the game at quarterback for Bloomsburg (5-3), but he was soon taken out in favor of Klingerman, who wasted little time getting the Panthers’ offense off and running.
Klingerman tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jahvel Hemphill that tied the game at 7 with 35 seconds left in the first quarter following a score by Mifflinburg (4-4).
Logan Finsterbush caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Wagner that temporarily gave the Wildcats the lead in the previous series.
“When we don’t have (Ricky Klingerman) on the field it’s certainly tough because he’s such a talented kid,” said Bloomsburg coach Mike Kogut. “We kind of changed our game plan a little bit, and just having Colby spreading people out, and having Hempfield, Evan Ball and (Zach) Ashford to make plays in space we felt that was going to be our best shot to win, and in the second half we certainly played well with that.
“(Colby) wanted the ball and that’s the type of player he is,” added Kogut. “The saying goes ‘great players make great plays’, and he, along with a lot of other players, made some great plays tonight.”
After Mifflinburg’s Brett Luhrman kicked field goals of 27 and 28 yards to give the Wildcats a 13-10 halftime lead, Kogut needed those aforementioned play-makers to bring the team back.
Klingerman put Bloomsburg up by four on a 21-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to put the Panthers ahead, 17-13.
Then with time winding down and Mifflinburg driving for the go-ahead touchdown, Ball intercepted a Wagner pass that was meant for Tristan Martin and returned it 70 yards for the score and an 11-point lead.
“The pick-six was big. Ball is another quiet kid who doesn’t say much but he goes out and plays (hard) week in and week out,” said Kogut. “He was kind of under the radar going into this year, but defensively he’s been one of the best linebackers in the area.”
Mistakes ultimately killed Mifflinburg, which also fumbled the ball away once and had eight penalties for 70 yards, including a personal foul that caused running back Tanner Bingaman to be ejected from the game.
“When you play in big games and play tough teams like (Bloomsburg), those who make the least amount of mistakes or least turnovers move on, so to speak,” said Dressler. “We made more than what (Bloomsburg) did.”