MIFFLINBURG — KJ Riley was not at all surprised with Danville’s passing prowess Friday. In fact, he would have been annoyed if he and the Ironmen weren’t Ginsu-sharp.
“We were well-prepared in practice,” said Riley. “We practiced for 12 weeks, and we had all this planned. We were ready.”
Danville scored on its first seven possessions of the season opener, all but one of them in the first half, en route to blitzing Mifflinburg, 49-7, in a Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II matchup.
The Ironmen capitalized on the Wildcats’ trio of first-quarter turnovers, and led 28-0 not even a minute into the second period. By halftime, the visitors had amassed 318 yards — 246 through the air — and triggered the mercy rule for the second half with a 42-0 lead.
“To be as good as we were tonight was certainly exciting for our kids and our program,” said first-year Danville coach Mike Brennan. “(Riley) did a lot of good things. He was certainly the spark that got us going. It was a good start for him.”
Mifflinburg, which had 5 of 13 pass attempts intercepted, got on the board with 3:06 to play in the game on senior John Darrup’s 3-yard run. The host Wildcats were limited to 76 yards and five first downs through three quarters while falling behind 49-0.
“It’s tough when you’re in that hole and battling to get out of it,” said Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler. “(Danville has) got a lot of returners and they’re a very solid team. There’s a difference there between the green-ness and the experience.
“Danville was certainly the better team and it showed.”
Riley, in his fourth year as a starter, was exceptional, completing 13 of 17 passes for 246 yards and four touchdowns while adding another score on the ground. He completed his first five passes, two for touchdowns including one on the first snap of the season — a 35-yard strike to sophomore Carson Persing that followed Mifflinburg’s opening three-and-out.
“We had a good scheme, and all week in practice we were saying, ‘We can pass on this team,’” said Persing, who caught six balls for 106 yards. “All summer we’ve been working, (and) we’ve been waiting for this game — two weeks delayed — finally got out here, and it was very exciting.”
Persing’s older brother, senior Ian, caught Riley’s second TD — a 23-yarder — after Zach Gordon’s interception gave Danville the ball in Wildcats territory. An acrobatic pick by Brady Hill on a flare into the flat, set up Riley’s 9-yard TD keeper two plays later for a 21-0 lead not 6 minutes in.
“We were trying to make a statement today,” said Riley. “We wanted to show everybody that we are the ‘Team of the 20s,’ as we like to say.”
Cade Cush made an interception to thwart Mifflinburg’s first red-zone drive, stepping up from the goal line to snare the second long pass of the quarter that got hung up in a stiff wind.
“We’re going to try to be aggressive and we’re going to take our shots. Things just didn’t go our way,” said Dressler. “We have things we’ve got to work through, but we’ll get there.”
The Ironmen then bridged the second period with a 97-yard series and a 44-yard touchdown play by Jagger Dressler, who caught a short pass and broke a tackle on the right sideline.
Riley finished the half — and his night — with scoring passes to Ian Persing (17 yards) and Jagger Dressler (26 yards) in the closing 3 1/2 minutes. Four touchdown passes brought his career total to 53, matching Andrew Andreychik’s program record, and he became just the second Ironman to eclipse 5,000 passing yards. Only Andrew Shoop threw for more career yards (5,391) in a Danville uniform than Riley (5,198).
“I’ve coached a few special ones, and he’s certainly one of them,” said Brennan, who won two state titles at Mount Carmel prior to stints at Blue Mountain and Hazleton Area. “He does everything well.”
Ironmen sophomore Ty Stauffer rushed for 35 of his game-high 56 yards on the opening series of the second half, capping it with a 1-yard TD blast for a 49-0 lead.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Carson Persing. “We knew we had talent coming into this year, (and) we just had to put it to work. Hopefully we’ll be firing on all cylinders the rest of the year.”
DANVILLE 49, MIFFLINBURG 7
Danville (1-0, 1-0)`21`21`7`0 — 49
Mifflinburg (0-1, 0-1)`0`0`0`7 — 7
D-Carson Persing 35 pass from KJ Riley kick (Riley kick), 10:10
D-Ian Persing 23 pass from Riley (Riley kick), 7:36
D-Riley 9 run (Riley kick), 6:09
D-Jagger Dressler 44 pass from Riley (Riley kick), 11:13
D-I. Persing 17 pass from Riley (Riley kick), 3:17
D-Dressler 26 pass from Riley (Riley kick), 0:18
D-Ty Stauffer 1 run (Brady Hill kick), 5:46
M-John Darrup 3 run (Gabe Stetler kick), 3:06
RUSHING — Danville: Ty Stauffer 13-56, TD; Zach Gordon 3-38; KJ Riley 2-19, TD; Ian Persing 2-19; Jagger Dressler 1-11; Sam Meloy 2-5; Mason Raup 1-3; Carson Persing 1-2; Bronson Krainak 1-1; Jack Smiley 1-1; Jack Gibson 1-0. Mifflinburg: Jacob Reitz 3-39; Tyler Foltz 8-35; Andrew Diehl 7-34; Zechariah Mentz 2-10; John Darrup 4-3, TD; Team 1-(-11).
PASSING — Danville: Riley 13-17-0, 246 yds., 4 TDs; Gordon 1-4-0, 7 yds. Mifflinburg: Reitz 3-13-5, 46 yds.
RECEIVING — Danville: C. Persing 6-106, TD; Dressler 4-88, 2 TDs; I. Persing 2-40, 2 TDs; Hayden Winn 1-12; Brandon Zimmerman 1-7. Mifflinburg: Colin Miller 2-38; Jacob Bingaman 1-8.