ALMEDIA — Nine times Central Columbia faced a third-down play, and seven times they converted.
According to Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler, that was the difference in the Wildcats’ 17-0 loss to the Blue Jays in a Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II game Friday.
Nevertheless, Dressler said he was happy with the effort of his players and said he has seen improvement from week to week.
Down 10-0 at the half, Mifflinburg’s defense opened the second half with its first three-and-out of the game. After a turnover on downs and another defensive stop, the Wildcats showed their ability to run power football, plowing through the Blue Jays’ defense at will on a 13-play drive that lasted more than six and a half minutes.
Unfortunately for Mifflinburg, the drive stalled. Then the Blue Jays iced it with Troy Johnson’s second touchdown run of the night, a 3-yarder with 2:05 left on third-and-6.
“That was great; we were moving. They put everybody in the box. We tried running a screen and it was wide open, but we didn’t execute. We’ve got to execute better than we have, those are things that stop the drives,” Dressler said.
He said that drive was a huge momentum builder and the players showed a lot of heart.
“They pour their hearts out on the field. Effort is never a concern to me,’’ Dressler said. “We just have to execute perfectly every single time and put the ball in the end zone. Defensively, we just gotta win the third downs. We didn’t win the third downs tonight and you saw the result.”
Despite not scoring, Dressler said that third-quarter drive was a key for his team.
“We’re getting there,” he said.
Central Columbia coach Scott Dennis said that drive had him concerned.
“I was nervous because I know how hard they play,” Dennis said. “The thing I like about Mifflinburg is every single play they’re coming after you — whether it be offense or defense and that goes back to the coaching staff and the character of the kids.”
Mifflinburg’s defense held Johnson relatively in check in the first half. The 5-foot-10, 145-pound senior, who entered the night with 323 rushing yards and five TDs, managed just 48 on 13 carries before the break.
“We tried to go inside and (defensive end Emmanuel Ulrich) owned us,” Dennis said of the 5-10, 288-pound sophomore.
In the second half, they worked the perimeter and had success. Johnson finished with 132 yards on 26 carries.
The Wildcats (1-3 overall and PHAC) have been shut out in back-to-back weeks (starting with unbeaten Montoursville), but Dressler continues to see improvement.
Dennis said he agrees with Dressler’s assessment.
“Their record is not indicative of the type of team they are,” he said. “They’re very physical, they do a lot of things really well,” he said.
CENTRAL COLUMBIA 17,
Mifflinburg (1-3) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Central Col. (3-1) 7 3 0 7 — 17
CC—Troy Johnson 14 run (Mason Yorty kick)
CC—FG, Yorty 27
CC—Johnson 3 run (Yorty kick)
First downs 12 11
Rushes-yards 39-135 32-148
Passing 11-17-1 7-15-0
Passing yards 60 97
Total yards 195 245
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-55 5-55
RUSHING — Mifflinburg: Andrew Diehl 15-77, John Darrup 7-44; Quintin Doane 2-9, Jacob Reitz 9-5. Central Columbia: Troy Johnson 26-132, 2 TDs; Zach Smith 2-18; team 1-0; Isaac Kester 2-(-2).
PASSING — Mifflinburg: Reitz 11-17-1, for 70 yards. Central Columbia: Garrett McNellis 7-15-0, for 97 yards.
RECEIVING — Mifflinburg: Carter Breed 3-18; Colin Miller 2-12; Jacob Bingaman 2-12; Camdyn Smith 1-7; Cannon Griffith 1-6; Darrup 1-5; Diehl 1-0. Central Columbia: Smith 4-29; Logan Gillaspy 2-63; Johnson 1-5.