Down by six and pinned deep in its own territory late in the game, it was not looking hopeful for Mifflin County to grab its first lead of the night.
With paydirt 88 yards away, the Huskies took the field and orchestrated a 14-play drive that was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown run by senior Heath Hidlay.
A successful extra point by Andrew Traxler gave the Huskies their first lead at 21-20 with 1:52 left to play.
Now, it was State College’s turn to do something with the ball.
And it did just that.
On the kickoff, the Little Lions used a little bit of trickery and ran a reverse, putting themselves at the Huskies’ 49.
Six plays later the Little Lions’ Pat Irwin answered right back. The senior quarterback plowed his way two yards into the end zone with 44 seconds left to give the Little Lions a 26-21 victory.
The Huskies drove inside the State College 30, but ran out of time by using the final 12 seconds for the final completion that was short of the end zone.
“I’m speechless, I mean our players played their hearts out tonight and we did everything possible that we could do to win and I told them in the huddle that basically we were four seconds short,” the Huskies’ head coach George Miskinis said.
“The big kickoff return set it up for them and you can’t let them start a two-minute drive on your side of the 50. We just got to get better, we’re right there, we played a heck of a football game, we played our hearts out, we played with enthusiasm, we hit and we didn’t quit when we were down.”
The Little Lions survived, improving to 5-4 on the season.
While State College seemed comfortably ahead by 13 points in the third quarter, coach Al Wolski knew that the Huskies had the big-play ability to get right back into it. They did when Hunter Walker used some trickery to connect for a 78-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Jerzerick in the third quarter to make it 20-14.
“We knew they had the ability the get back in it, they’re big, they’re strong, they pound the ball and (Hidlay) is a tough runner,” Wolski said. “They hit us with that neat little play where (Walker) fumbled the ball and we came up and he hit (Jerzerick) on that and that hurt us.”
The Little Lions got off to a good start, taking a 14-0 lead. Jordan Misher opened the scoring with an 11-yard run in the first quater and the extra point was blocked. Anthony Paffie-Misher added a two-yard touchdown late in the second quarter and Irwin passed to Jake Knouse for the conversion.
Hidlay cut the margin in half, scoring from five yards out to make it 14-7 at the half.
Knouse put the Little Lions ahead by two scores by rumbling 17 yards for a score on the Little Lions’ first possession of the second half, but the Little Lions’ conversion pass failed.
That set the stage for the Mifflin County rally.
If Miskinis had it to do over, he said that he would consider utilizing more of the game clock on his squad’s next-to-last drive, which ultimately would have given the Little Lions’ offense less time to operate.
“We start deep in our own territory and we drive the ball down the field and it looks like we left too much time on the clock,” Miskinis said. “It just comes down to maybe we should have had (Hidlay) fall on the two yard line or something, pick up the first down, go down at the two, make the clock run for another minute and take four plays to score and get in on two yards. In retrospect you hate to say something like that, but the reality of the thing is that it was one of those where the clock wasn’t our ally at the end.”
Irwin finished the night going 12-for-20 with 144 yards through the air. Knouse’s 81 yards paced a ground game that amassed 181 yards. The Little Lions were hurt by eight penalties for 80 yards.
Hidlay had 73 yards on 73 carries. Walker was 7 of 15 for 145 yards with an interception.
With the District 6/9 playoffs looming , there’s a chance these two squads could meet up again in two weeks. For both schools, this matchup has become a special rivalry and both coaches are looking forward to having the chance to go at it again.
“Yeah it looks that way, hopefully we will get that opportunity,” Wolski said. “I’m not sure what happens with them as far as if they have a .500 rule or not and hopefully it will be at our place and we will be able to have a little home game. But it’s neat to have this rivalry because they don’t have anybody a half hour away and we don’t have anybody a half hour away, so it’s neat for both communities.”