By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG — His team lost an opportunity last week to climb into the thick of the playoff race in District 4 Class AA with a road loss to Towanda. Now Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler needs his Wildcats to try to climb back in, starting with a win against a winless, but dangerous Shamokin squad.
Mifflinburg hosts Shamokin on Friday night in a Heartland Athletic Conference Division I contest.
Dressler said this week that the team has been talking about how it has missed chances to score and take over games.
“We want to take care of business on the field, but, at the same point, if we have aspirations of postseason play, the victories need to come in the next coming weeks. There are four games and we have to take them one at a time and we need them in order to have a chance at post-season play. We need to start this week,” he said.
But Shamokin is a team that, although winless (0-6, 0-4 HAC-I), has shown flashes of success, especially on offense.
“Absolutely there is potential there,” Dressler said of the Indians. “They do have athletes and, watching them through the season, they made changes along the way to try to get their kids in better position to find that success.”
First-year Shamokin coach Yaacov Yisrael would agree.
“Offensively, I think we had two good weeks in a row. I think (senior quarterback and converted wide receiver) Sean McLaughlin has really stepped up and that’s really helped us,” Yisrael said.
Dressler said the Indians still have the potential to be dangerous. “Our players have to respect their athletes and the abilities they have to make things happen, once they put it all together,” Dressler said.
Dressler said the Indians are playing very aggressively and playing to win.
“We certainly can’t look at it as like, ‘oh, we’re playing an 0-6 team.’ Historically Shamokin has always had aggressive kids and they play four quarters of football.”
He said the Indians also come to Mifflinburg (4-2, 3-2 HAC-I) with nothing to lose, and hungry for a victory.
The Indians run an option offense, run by McLaughlin, who moved from wide receiver two weeks ago, with former quarterback Tucker Yost, a junior, moving to wide receiver.
“You have to be disciplined to defend the option game. They can almost lull your players a little bit and hit the dive inside and then all of a sudden there is a pitch and that’s when their big plays happen, that’s when they strike,” he said.
Yisrael said that, although early in the season the offense was struggling and the defense played well, the latter has taken a step back.
“Defense is now the part that we need to get up to par,” he said.
But Yisrael also said there were a lot of positive things from last week’s game at Milton as “we continue to learn better about our personnel and what the guys can and cannot do.”
He said the game at Milton was positive in many ways. “We had about a three-minute time there where we just didn’t know what happened and the game got out of hand,” he said.