The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 17, 2013

Mifflinburg, Bloomsburg battle for playoff spots

By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item

— BLOOMSBURG — Any coach will tell you that the goal is to go undefeated each week and both teams meeting in Bloomsburg are treating Friday’s pivotal District 4 matchup as a must-win game.

Mifflinburg comes into the Heartland Athletic Conference crossover game in sixth place in the District 4 Class AA standings while Bloomsburg sits in fifth in Class A, 140 points behind the fourth and final playoff spot in Class A.

Although Mifflinburg is currently in a playoff position, the Wildcats are a mere 70 points ahead of ninth-place Towanda, making every game important.

According to Bloomsburg coach Mike Kogut, the Panthers will be looking to send their graduating seniors out with a win in what could be the final home game for a talented senior class.

Those seniors have played a role in 29 Bloomsburg wins over the past four years, winning at least eight games in each of the last three seasons.

“Our focus needs to be on Mifflinburg and them alone,” Kogut said. “They have beat some formidable opponents this year and are coming off of a nice win versus Shamokin.”

Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler said his team is treating the game against Bloomsburg as if it were a playoff game.

“We’ve got to make it through Bloomsburg (and) make sure we have a good game against them,” Dressler said.

The Wildcats were able to play well to hold off a scrappy Shamokin team in the second half.

Dressler said that small problems on defense have held the Wildcats back but his coaching staff is working hard at the fundamentals on the defensive side of the ball to have a strong finish to the year.

The tune-ups Dressler’s staff has made will be tested against a potent Panthers offense, which has been led by a pair of Klingermans, Ricky at quarterback and cousin Colby at wide receiver. Ricky, however, was injured last week and will not start. Replacing him is sophomore Tyson Thrush.

The Klingerman duo have connected for seven touchdowns and Ricky has completed 69 percent of his passes.

Dressler was quick to credit both players for their role in the Panthers offense.

“They’re certainly two very good athletes,” Dressler said early in the week before Klingerman was listed as out for the game. “I like the way Ricky plays (quarterback).”

However, Dressler was hesitant to focus on the play of Ricky and Colby Klingerman, saying that the Panthers have a host of other players that can hurt a defense.

Dressler also has the luxury of having a number of players he can send in to pick up yardage. Dressler used a rotation of running backs in Mifflinburg’s win over Shamokin.

“They have very good speed and are balanced in the run and the pass,” Kogut said of Mifflinburg. “They distribute the ball nicely among their players.”

Kogut said that his team will need to be disciplined on defense to stop a Wildcats team hungry for a playoff berth.

The Panthers allowed 50 points last week to a Southern Columbia team ranked at the top of the state rankings in Class A and Kogut said his team will need to learn from its mistakes in the loss.

“Offensively, we need to find a groove which has been difficult at times this year to establish.”

The Panthers will have to settle into a groove against the Wildcats to send their seniors out with a home victory and keep their playoff hopes alive.

“We will see Friday night, the composure and make-up of our team,” Kogut said.