By Harold Raker
For The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG — In recent years, especially during last year’s 0-10 season, Jersey Shore was a team the other Heartland Athletic Conference Division I squads could pencil in for an almost sure victory.
That is not the kind of team that second-year Bulldogs coach Tom Gravish will bring to Mifflinburg on Friday night in the Wildcats’ Homecoming Game.
“They most certainly have improved, and they are still kind of young,” said Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler, whose Wildcats are also 2-2, all HAC-I contests.
“Defensively they are a solid team and they are a scrappy team,” Dressler said.
He said that, from the game films he watched, Jersey Shore (2-2, 1-0 HAC-I) is playing with more discipline.
“They seem to have more solid athletes and they are willing to make plays and make things happen, and they don’t give up.”
Dressler said his team is preparing for a competitive team, not like the Jersey Shore teams of the past few years.
Gravish welcomes back one of the team’s leaders to the lineup this week in safety Jordan Tawney.
“He has been a great leader this season and we expect that he will give us a boost of energy on Friday and play a great game,” Gravish said.
Gravish said his team was having a great week of practice and that it will have to play well to beat a talented and well-coached Mifflinburg squad.
“We are looking forward to the challenge ahead of us this week. It should be a great game,” Gravish added.
Dressler also welcomes back a player who was out with an injury. Junior quarterback Jordan Wagner returns under center this week after missing a game and a half with an injury sustained in the game versus Milton.
But, in that game, Wagner’s replacement, senior Devin Hendrix, led the Wildcats back from a late deficit to beat the Black Panthers.
Dressler said that Wagner and Hendrix have both done some good things, but both also have areas on which they need to work.
Dressler’s main concern this week is defending the run.
“We have got to make improvements,” he said.
He expects the Bulldogs, after having seen the Wildcats struggle against the run, to come out and try to run the ball.
“Our defense has to step it up. We are making some modifications to hopefully get that run game stopped,” Dressler said.
He also said the Wildcats have to stop playing in catch-up mode.
“We need to do the little things right,” he said.
“We are still in an OK position at 3-2. But we don’t have anybody that is weak on our schedule, so it has to be one week at a time,” he said.
The Mifflinburg coach added that Jersey Shore quarterback Logan English is solid and makes good decisions. “We have to stay with tight coverage with our man. He will push the limits at the line of scrimmage and at the last second throw the ball. He is a good athlete and also plays on the defensive side ((safety),” Dressler said.