By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
MONTOURSVILLE — A loss last week to Bloomsburg, which helped the Panthers stay in the thick of the District 4 Class A points race, put Mifflinburg’s back against the wall as it battles for a spot in the Class AA tournament.
That loss coupled with the fact that the Wildcats (4-4) travel to unbeaten and top-seeded (for the moment) Montoursville in a Heartland Athletic Conference crossover game Friday night, makes for an uphill battle for the Union County team.
Although conceding that the team will have to play very well the final two weeks to qualify for the post-season, Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler said the main focus for his staff and the players is to get better at doing their jobs and trusting one another.
“If we can focus on that, everything else will take care of itself,” Dressler said.
He said the team had a setback last week, but the players came in this week focused and “by no means are they rolling over and saying the season is over.”
He said, “They are ready to do what needs to be done the next two weeks, and what we need to do to put ourselves in position to succeed, and that’s where their focus is at.”
He knows this week will be the first of two challenges.
“Watching film on these guys (the Montoursville Warriors), they are just very solid fundamentally. The thing that I’m talking with our guys about, doing the little things well, they do that, they play all four quarters and just go out and play ball,” he said.
Dressler said the Warriors (8-0) do a great job of keeping their offense on the field and keeping their opponents’ defense on the field and running the clock down.
“Defensively they have a group of athletes, it’s not a one-man show.”
The Warriors were without their leading rusher and scorer in senior tailback Cameron Ott last week and he is listed as a possible starter Friday night. His replacement, Alec Rothrock, more than filled the void, rushing for 235 yards and two touchdowns against Milton.
“With Ott being out, they bring other kids in and they get the job done. That’s a solid team,” Dressler said.
The fact that the Warriors run the ball so well is also a concern of Dressler, who said, “We have struggled with run defense this year, and we were working on that this week with our kids and making more adjustments, trying to coach up the kids and try to make them better.”
Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer, whose team has more than stood up to every challenge this season, said, “Mifflinburg is a very talented, dangerous football team. They have several great athletes and are very well-coached.”
Keefer added, “They get into some unique formations in order to utilize their players’ strengths. I expect a dogfight between two good teams.”