By JUSTIN PACKER
For The Sun-Gazette
MILL HALL - When recently-formed Mifflin County travels into Malinak Stadium to face the Wildcats, you can expect a hard, physical game.
Central Mountain’s Von Walker avoids a tackle Friday vs. Mifflin County.
That was exactly what fans in Bald Eagle Township were treated to Friday night at Huskies and Central Mountain locked horns in a battle that wasn't decided until late in the fourth quarter.
With the game locked up at 6-6 for most of the game, Mifflin County was able to put two late touchdowns on the board to secure a 19-6 victory over their District 6 Class AAAA foe, Central Mountain.
It was a game that featured an inspiring performance from Von Walker and solid defensive play from the Wildcats, it was just a mattered of lost opportunities.
"We had our chances to win this game," CM coach Vinnie Kishbaugh said. "Our inability to throw the ball made us one dimensional. That is what ultimately hurt us. Walker almost won us that game by himself."
Walker put on quite a show, rushing the ball 17 times for 154 yards with one touchdown, added another 34 through the air on 4-of-9 passing and played a solid game defensively in new role.
The Wildcats did a little shifting and moved Walker to the middle linebacker position. He responded by creating chaos for the Husky offense for most of the game.
"He was unbelievable tonight," Kishbaugh said of Walker. "He was causing fits on the offensive line and they didn't know what to do with him. He played an amazing game on both ends of the field."
With the Huskies keying on the senior Wildcat, Walker took big hit after big hit and still got up.
Not only did he get up, he put CM in positions to be successful.
"Give CM credit," Mifflin County coach George Miskinis said, "they are a great team. Von is an exceptional talent and he had an amazing game for them tonight. Coach Kishbaugh is doing a great job with these guys and they were a hard out tonight."
Defensively, it was a solid game played by both teams.
Central Mountain finished with 155 yards of total offense, while Mifflin County managed 251 yards.
"Our defensive coach (Justin) Armbruster is a great defensive mind," Kishbaugh said. "He knew what was coming and he kept trying to mix things up on the Huskies. We brought some outside pressure at times and our defense did a great job of executing tonight."
From the opening drive, the Wildcats battled through small miscues including a roughing the punter penalty on a blocked punt.
Looking like the Huskies were going to go three-and-out, CM got flagged for roughing the punter giving Mifflin County new life. Shane Whalen took full advantage of that new life as he connect with Heath Hilday on a 40-yard pass two plays later, setting the Huskies up in Central Mountain territory.
"I think he (Whalen) is getting better," Miskinis said. "Our line is coming together and he is getting some extra time. The offensive line is picking up the stunts and that allowed him the time to find the open guy tonight."
On a third and long on the same drive, Whalen hooked up with Hilday again, this time for 11 yards, a first down and set up a 3-yard Kyle Kahley touchdown run.
"Anytime you have a chance to move the ball on the opening drive, especially on the road, it sets the tone," Miskinis said. "We were able to take the crowd out of the game for the most part and get some points on the board. That was big for us."
Another missed chance came in the opening drive of the second half.
With the score tied at 6, Walker shook off two would-be tacklers and broke off a huge 73-yard rush down the sideline, only to see the play called back for a holding penalty.
Again in the third quarter, CM had the chance to grab the lead, with a 4-and-goal on their own 20, Nick Noll booted a 37-yard field goal, only to have a defensive penalty negate the kick. With three points taken off the board and five yards closer, Noll's kick this time was partially blocked, bouncing harmlessly into the end zone and keeping the score tied.
"I am not making excuses, because that isn't what we teach our kids," Kishbaugh said. "But there were some terrible calls tonight. We had a roughing call on a blocked kick. That wasn't a good call at all and it ended up changing the momentum. There are things that we didn't have control over tonight that cost us big."
But time and again, Central Mountain was given chances, mostly by the play of standout Walker.
Time and again, the Wildcat offense turned to him and each time the young man answered with an exceptional play.
Just look at his first run of the night.
On the Wildcats' second drive of the night, Walker followed Blaze Buckwalter through the line and slashed his way into the endzone for a 32-yard touchdown.
Walker fought as hard as he could to keep the Wildcats in the game, at last, Mifflin County was able to wear CM down, picking up two touchdowns on short fields.
Early in the fourth, Mifflin County took over with only 27 yards between them and the endzone. Hidley and Tim Beck teamed up to chew up most of those yards, plunging the ball across the line with 8:29 to go in the game, putting MC on top, 13-6.
After a quick three-and-out from CM, the Huskies got the ball back on the 39 yard-line and Hidley quickly ate up 31 of those yards on a third down rush. The big bruising back Kahley finished the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown run and secured the game, 19-6.
Central Mountain (1-2) will be back in action Friday, when they travel to Bellefonte. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.