It’s been difficult for Mifflinburg to sustain football success this decade.
An 8-3 season in 2011 was followed by a 2-8 season. The Wildcats finished 5-5 in the 2013 regular season, then followed that with a three-win season in 2014.
So, after their first .500 regular season in six years in 2019 — combined with the graduation of three key seniors that led to that rebound — 2020’s pandemic-shortened season projected to once again be a step back for the Mifflinburg football team.
However, despite a 1-3 start and injury issues throughout the year, the Wildcats finished 5-5 after a loss to Line Mountain in their finale Friday night.
It’s the first time Mifflinburg has finished .500 in back-to-back regular seasons since a three-year stretch from 2005-07.
“It’s been a battle all year. Every single player has had to step up, even if there is only 20 of us (the Wildcats dressed only 23 players in the loss to Line Mountain),” said senior quarterback Jacob Reitz, whose dad Mark was the coach the last time Mifflinburg had consecutive .500 seasons. “Whether it was practice or a game, everybody did their part.”
The crew that graduated last year for Wildcats accounted for nearly 90 percent of the team’s total offense in 2019, and they were key to Mifflinburg’s defensive effort.
Coach Jason Dressler thought he had some players, but it was a group that was expected to take on roles larger than in previous seasons.
“We spent a lot of time in the summer on the importance and value of time. We didn’t know how much we’d be able to play,” Dressler said. “We really wanted them to seize the moment, and be excited to just be able to play.”
The Wildcats’ losses were to Danville, Montoursville, and Central Columbia. However, the “one” in their 1-3 start seemed to be the key to the season. It came on Sept. 18 in the Little Brown Jug game against rival Lewisburg, a game the Wildcats won 17-14.
“They showed confidence in the (season’s) second game against Lewisburg, especially in the second half,” Dressler said.
After the 1-3 start, the Wildcats went on to win four of the next five games. The only loss in that span was at Jersey Shore in the District 4 Class 4A semifinals.
That stretch came with a plethora of injuries, and, in turn, position changes. Quentin Doane and Cade Dressler moved from the offensive line to fullback, sometimes in the same game.
Colin Miller moved from wide receiver to running back, in the fifth game of the season. He had two 100-yard rushing games before being injured in the game against Jersey Shore.
The different players that made plays for Mifflinburg continued right to the final game. Reitz topped 300 yards passing at Line Mountain, and his only 100-yard receiver in the game — junior Aaron Hackenburg — hadn’t had a catch. Without Miller, who doubled as Mifflinburg’s leading receiver this season, the Wildcats needed another weapon in the passing game, and they found one.