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Archive for October, 2009

Wildcats hold strong for first win of the season


Reprinted with permission


ALMEDIA — Maybe Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler has a crystal ball.

Dressler picks a word for his team to focus on every week. This week the word was adversity. As in — overcome it.

If anyone had said going into Friday night’s game against Central Columbia that Mifflinburg could throw an interception, lose its most prolific running back in the third quarter, go on to put its longest drive of the season together and then, with the game seemingly put away at 14-7 and less than a minute on the clock, fumble on its own 13-yard line, give up a touchdown and still win, well, they would have had to have had a crystal ball.

After one of the most grueling opening schedules in the area, Mifflinburg won 14-13 over Central Columbia for its first win of the season in a Heartland Athletic Conference crossover game. Both teams are now 1-3.
Dressler almost bounced across the field to his team after the handshakes meeting an even more excited group of Wildcats in the huddle.

“I’m so proud of you guys,” he said to his team holding the game football high. “We had guys go out and we had guys step up. In the last drive you dug in and made it happen.”

The Wildcats made it happen with big plays, tough defense inside the red zone and limiting mistakes.

Anthony Wagner had the biggest offensive play of the game when he ran the ball back from his own 27 into the end zone on a kickoff following the first Blue Jays score.

“He really is a spark,” said Dressler. “You want to put the ball in his hands.”

Wagner’s point-after attempt was blocked, but the senior wasn’t done. Next he kicked off to Central and then tackled the Blue Jays returner.

The home team proceeded to march from its own 34 to the Wildcats’ 22 but the Mifflinburg defense stiffened up and on third-and-nine, Caleb Snyder intercepted a pass in the end zone that seemed destined for the Blue Jays’ second score of the game.

In the second quarter Central was threatening again but on third-and-10 at the Mifflinburg 10-yard line the Wildcats defense stuffed Central QB Matt Faux on a keeper and then blocked the field goal attempt.

With under two minutes left in the half the Blue Jays were once again threatening, but a combination of their own costly penalties as well as a quarterback sack by Shawn Shreck pushed the home team to its own 3-yard line and a botched pitch back to the punter on fourth-and-23 allowed Mifflinburg to go into the intermission with a 8-7 lead.

At the end of the third quarter the Wildcats started to put together their longest drive of the season, but it came at a price. On the second play of the drive Wagner ran 17 yards but was injured on the tackle.

Responding to the word of the week, Mifflinburg continued the drive using Travis Shrek in Wagner’s spot. Quarterback Alez Vidunas hit Kaleb Snyder for three passes and 24 yards and Michael Wiand, as well as Vidunas himself, provided some key carries. In the end it was the sophomore quarterback that called his own number for the 1-yard score.

“That was the best surge they had on the front line,” said Vidunas. “I got in by five yards.”

With the score 14-7 and the Mifflinburg defense once again shutting down central on a 4-17 at the 17-yard line with 1:47 on the clock it looked like the Wildcats could breathe easy.

But a missed handoff after taking possession on downs was recovered by the Blue Jays. Central would cash in for a touchdown and decided to go for the two-point conversion.

But Vidunas, devastated after the fumble, fought back on defense and tackled Ben Emmett to preserve the 14-13 win.

“I was thinking, ‘I blew the game for the team,’” said Vidunas. “I felt good that I had a chance to make a play to win.”

Central Columbia shot themselves in the foot play after play with costly penalties, a total 14 for 99 yards, while Mifflinburg gave up just 35 yards to penalties.

“I’ve been talking to them about keeping them down,” said Dressler.

But the first-year coach, on the night of his first win, couldn’t stop beaming over his team’s gutsy performance.

“They stepped up and then they stepped up again,” he said. “Adversity — we saw a lot of it in the first three weeks and tonight, but they kept fighting.

“(These) kids have that mindset.”



High school football: Stopper leads Lancers past Wildcats

By Matt Corbett
Reprinted with permission

MIFFLINBURG -- There was one certainty in Friday night's Heartland Athletic Conference crossover game between Mifflinburg and Loyalsock: There was no stopping Stephen Stopper. The shifty Lancers tailback rambled for 271 yards on 35 carries and all three touchdowns as Loyalsock pulled away for a 21-6 victory at Wildcat Stadium. The Wildcats (0-3) were in it until late in the fourth quarter, when Stopper ran it in from 13 yards out for the icer as Loyalsock improved to 2-1. "They're a good team, and Stopper's a good runner," said Mifflinburg first-year coach Jason Dressler. "We knew he would get the ball a lot. Our guys were in position, but we needed to tackle him low and we here (tackling him) high." The Lancers made it look easy on their first possession, moving 52 yards after forcing a Mifflinburg three-and-out following the opening kickoff. Stopper had two runs for 24 yards and Mike Kinney ripped off a 15-yarder before Stopper took it in on second-and-goal from the 1.

The Wildcats answered that score with their own, driving 58 yards in just four plays for their lone touchdown of the night. On second-and-five from the Loyalsock 40, Anthony Wagner took a pitch from quarterback Alex Vidunas and scooted 40 yards around the right side for a score less than halfway through the first quarter. The extra-point kick was wide left, however, leaving the Wildcats trailing 7-6.

Mifflinburg barely avoided a larger deficit on the last play of the first half, when Frankie Pagana was hauled down at the Mifflinburg 4-yard line as time ran out after a 30-yard completion from Tyler Bogaczyk. Loyalsock took the second-half kick and marched 80 yards in 11 plays, with Stopper taking it in from nine yards out for a 14-6 lead. On the second play of the fourth quarter, Mifflinburg's Cole Stahl recovered a Stopper fumble at the Wildcats' 33. Mifflinburg reached the Loyalsock 41, but on fourth-and-four Brandon Smith broke up a Vidunas pass as the Wildcats turned it over on downs. Mifflinburg got a final opportunity with 5:32 left after forcing a Lancers punt, but had to start from poor field position at their own 7. With Wagner out of the game with a minor injury, the Wildcats were only able to reach their 20 before being forced to punt on fourth-and-eight, and Stopper returned it to the Mifflinburg 29.

Loyalsock immediately went back to its bread and butter, as Stopper carried five straight times, including the game-clinching TD from 13 yards out, as the Lancers put it away late. Wagner finished with 88 yards rushing on 10 carries for the Wildcats, who managed just 198 yards in total offense. Vidunas was 12-for-26 for 89 yards, with an interception. "The whole offense, we improved this week. But we still have to take advantage of opportunities and make things happen," said Dressler. "We felt like we matched up well against them. But with turnovers and penalties ... we have to capitalize on our opportunities."



Determined Reinard leads Seals past ’Cats

By Harold Raker

Reprinted with permission

MIFFLINBURG — Kyle Reinard’s contribution to Selinsgrove’s 41-0 opening-night win over Mount Carmel was a mere nine rushing yards on five carries and two receptions for one yard. The junior tailback couldn’t wait to get back on the field. Well, he did have to wait an extra day, after the Seals’ game at Mifflinburg was postponed by rain until Saturday night. But, for Reinard and Seals fans, it was well worth the wait. The 5-foot-9, 177-pound junior went to work quickly, scoring Selinsgrove’s first 18 points and the Seals, behind a rejuvenated offense and their usual smothering defense, spoiled Mifflinburg’s home opener with a 44-6 Heartland Athletic Conference Division I victory.

“I was a little upset about last week’s game, so I came out here determined, followed my blocks and the line did great. Everyone did great on offense and defense,” Reinard said. Reinard capped the Seals’ opening 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive with a 4-yard TD run off right tackle, hauled in a perfect 33-yard pass from quarterback Cory Briggs for a TD on the second series, and took an inside handoff over the right side for a 35-yard TD run on Selinsgrove’s third series. The Seals missed the first two extra point tries, but made it 20-0 on Briggs’ conversion pass to Cameron Benner with 48 seconds left in the opening period. “Everyone executed what they were supposed to do. That’s why everything opened up,” said Reinard, who finished with 107 yards on eight carries, with all but one rush (for 16 yards) coming in the first half.

The onslaught continued as there was no stopping the Seals on this night. They drove 62 yards on 10 plays on their next possession, with Ryan Trautman diving over the top for a 1-yard score. Then, Briggs hit tight end Kyle Schuck on a slant for a 15-yard TD on the next series to close out the half at 42-0.

Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess said, “The first game, we definitely had some problems with our offense, especially with our pass protection. We got that pretty much straightened up this week. Mifflinburg gave us some looks. We’re pretty happy with the effort.”

Benner tacked on a 45-yard TD run in the third, and the Seals blocked a punt which led to a safety — Mifflinburg kicked the ball out of the end zone — for the final margin. Hess apologized to Dressler for the punt block by Matt Wenrich, saying it occurred as a result of a miscommunication.

Meanwhile, Selinsgrove (2-0, 2-0) exemplified defensive domination. Mifflinburg had negative five yards offense (and no receiving yards) in the first half. Other than a first down on a penalty early in the game, the Wildcats (0-2, 0-2) didn’t earn a first down until a 5-yard run by Travis Schreck in the fourth quarter. But the Seals’ Ben Morrow intercepted a pass on the next play. As for his defense, Hess said, “They’re quick, they’re tenacious, they get to the ball, they tackle well, and they’re getting some pretty good coaching from (assistant coaches) Derek Hicks and Chip Moll.” Hess added, “They pretty much smothered Mifflinburg. I think Miff did what they could, but it was a pretty tough night for them.”

Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler said, “Sometimes you simply play a team that just outperforms you, and that was the case. Our guys gave all they’ve got, they tried hard, they didn’t give up, they kept fighting.” Dressler said his players knew what they were up against.

“They are very solid and they are quick. They’re all over the place and they just have that step, have that edge, a step ahead of you. It’s tough to compete with them,” Dressler said.

Trailing 44-0, the Wildcats got on the board on a 1-yard run by Anthony Wagner with 7:23 left. Mifflinburg also drove to the Seals’ 5-yard line on the game’s final series, but time expired.


Wildcats can't contain Haupt

By Todd Stanford
Reprinted with permission

MONTOURSVILLE -- Once again, Mifflinburg saw way too much of Cody Haupt. Montoursville's senior tailback rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns Friday night as the Warriors opened the season and Heartland Athletic Conference Division I play with a 28-7 victory at Memorial Stadium. Haupt scored on runs of 2, 42 and 11 yards. He also had a 75-yard run called back due to a holding penalty. Haupt had 239 yards rushing and two scores in Montoursville's 34-14 win over Mifflinburg last year. But unlike that game, in which the Warriors led by 34 points heading into the fourth quarter, Mifflinburg made a game of it for a time Friday. Wildcats senior kick returner David Borisov returned a kickoff back 84 yards late in the second quarter to tie the game at 7.

Montoursville (1-0, 1-0 HAC-I) led 14-7 at halftime after Haupt's 2-yard run just before the break. But the Warriors didn't make it a two-possession game until midway through the third after Haupt's 42-yard run.
"Our guys showed up and they really gave it their all," first-year Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler said. "When they scored first, we bounced back and scored. It's about perseverance." Borisov's runback brought new life to the Wildcats (0-1, 0-1), but it couldn't change a difficult night offensively in which Mifflinburg managed just 142 total yards and turned the ball over three times. Montoursville's defense made 10 tackles for loss. Wildcats sophomore quarterback Barry Tomasetti played most of the game, completing seven of 16 passes for 59 yards. Alex Vidunac entered the game in the fourth and completed two of four passes for 13 yards and a pick.

The Warriors defense got good pressure on the quarterbacks. But as good as the defense was in the trenches, Montoursville's offensive line was every bit as dominant. Montoursville rolled up 323 yards on the ground -- 161 in the first half and 162 in the second. "We knew coming in that their strength was their skill people," Warriors coach Jim Bergen said when asked about the play of his offensive and defensive lines. "We were hoping we were going to be able to open up some holes."

Montoursville opened the scoring with 2:49 to go in the second quarter. The drive started when David Batkowski intercepted a Tomasetti pass at midfield. Eight plays later, fullback Eli Rusczyk rumbled in from 4 yards out for the score. The key play on the drive came on quarterback Travis Singer's 34-yard bootleg down to the 1. After Rusczyk's touchdown, Borisov brought the Mifflinburg fans to their feet when he caught the kickoff on a dead run at his own 16 and then made his way down the left sideline for the touchdown. "That was awesome," Dressler said. "(Our kids) were full of all kinds of energy... We said, Hey, we're in this game.'"

Mifflinburg had a golden opportunity to score early in the second quarter, as Michael Wiand recovered a Haupt fumble at the Montoursville 20. After an incompletion on first down, Tomasetti found Kaleb Snyder for an 8-yard gain. But a five-yard penalty on the Wildcats followed, and Tomasetti's 3rd-and-7 pass fell incomplete. On fourth down from the 17, Tomasetti had to get rid of it quickly due to pressure from inside linebacker Nick Dawson, and the ball fell incomplete. "Of course, we've got a lot to work on," Dressler said. "We'll go back, study the film, and see what we can do to get better this coming week.