STATE COLLEGE — When State College and Mifflin County met two weeks ago, the Little Lions won a tight game with the Huskies on late touchdown drive.
When they battled again Friday in the District 6-9 Class AAAA playoffs, it was the Huskies’ turn.
Starting at their own 36, the Huskies marched through a a tenacious State College defense behind Heath Hidlay. The senior running back’s one-yard plunge, his fourth touchdown of the game,and Andrew Traxler’s extra point gave the Huskies a 27-26 triumph. Mifflin County (5-6) advances to play DuBois for a shot at the District 6 crown next week. Mifflin County defeated DuBois 21-17 in its season opener.
“Hats off to State College, it was a great high school football game, truly a playoff game (and) it came down to who was going to make the final stop,” George Miskinis the Huskies head coach said. “Both teams did their very best, it was a slugfest, a very physical game. They’re a very well coached football team, they have really good athletes and our kids just refused to lose tonight and we were able to make one more play to get the win.”
State College (5-6) was in position to pull off another comeback after Jake Knouse’s big kickoff return put the Little Lions in position inside Husky territory.
When quarterback Patrick Irwin trotted onto the field, the Little Lions were 48 yards away from the end zone. But contrary to what he had done two weeks ago, Irwin was unable to lead a last minute game-winning drive, Irwin came up short.
On first down, Irwin was sacked by the Huskies’ Jadon Boyer, which set the Lions up for a second and very long.
An incomplete pass and a short dump off had the Little Lions facing a fourth down and 15 yards to go and the Huskies stopped them.
“I think the big thing the first play of the last minute drive we were able to get a quarterback sack, which set them back and got them into a long situation and that makes a very uncomfortable play selection for anybody coming out from your own end,” Miskinis said. “So I think that changed the momentum of the game, that sack and they had to take their timeout and came up with a couple other plays, and we almost had a pick there, so any play at the end of the game when the game is on the line is a big play and tonight we were able to make them.”
Big plays seemed to be the only type of plays that Hidlay made all night, whether it was on offense or defense. He came up with a key interception in the third quarter that ultimately lea to his team taking the lead to start the second half. On thee ground, he had his way with the Lions’ defense.
Hidlayy finished the night with 25 carries for 160 yards and all four of the Huskies’ scores. His ability to grind it out and pick up yards after contact was what helped his team squeak out the win. Hidlay had 11 carries of five or more yards.
Hidlay credited those big numbers to his team’s power package.
“I think they were putting seven or eight in the box, so we started our power run game, which helped me get five, six yards at a time,” Hidlay said. “We went 4-6 in the regular season, so I think they might have took us a little lightly since they beat us on our home turf, so we came to theirs and we beat them. It’s thrilling that’s for sure.”
In the end, the Little Lions’ lack of a kicking game proved to be their downfall, unlike recent years. After going up 26-20 with 4:37 remaining they elected to go for two instead of kicking the extra point.
“We were forced to go for two, we didn’t really have a strong kicking game, so we went for two a couple of times,” State College coach Al Wolski said. “We thought to go for one was the right thing to do (after tying the game early in the fourth quarter) and we missed the extra point. We just couldn’t get enough points on the board.”
The contest was close throughout.
Irwin’s one-yard sneak put State College up 6-0 in the first quarter.
Hidlay scored from one and five yards out to put Mifflin County up 14-6. Irwin’s 42-yard touchdown pass to John Weakland and his conversion pass to Weakland tied the score at 14-14 at the half.
Hidlay’s 14-yard scamper and a blocked extra point gave the Huskies a 20-14 lead after three quarters. Anthony Paffie-Misher‘s 11-yard touchdown run and the missed extra point tied the score 21 second into the fourth quarter before Jordan Misher’s 11-yard burst gave the Little Lions the lead.
Irwin was 10-for-21 for 127 yards and was picked off twice. Irwin led the Little Lions with 95 yards on 14 carries.
Mifflin County snapped a six-game losing skid.