MIFFLINBURG - Much in the same fashion as Charles' Dickens Tale of Two Cities, the Heartland Conference game between Jersey Shore and Mifflinburg was the tale of two halves.
Mifflinburg won the first 24 minutes 20-6 and Shore scored the only seven points of the second half. Put the two together, and you have a 20-13 Wildcat win over the Bulldogs.
"Our offense did a good job in the first half and as a result, they did some good things," said Mifflinburg head coach Jason Dressler. "We got a little sloppy in the second and we didn't execute the way we needed to coming off the ball. Despite that, we did some good things to keep the clock ticking, but in the second half, our defense stepped up and made some big plays when we needed them."
On the other side of the field, Jersey Shore head coach Tom Gravish was disappointed with the loss, but certainly not with the effort.
"We just feel that we ran out of time," said Gravish. "Our kids battled hard and they gave us every ounce of effort they had in their bodies. We just made too many costly mistakes in the first half and that put us behind the eight ball."
Shore scored its first touchdown in the final seconds before halftime and Dressler felt that gave the Bulldogs an edge going into the second half.
"Them scoring right before the half gave them a lot of energy going into the second half," said Dressler. "We bent a little, but overall, the kids played a heck of a defensive game as a team. Everybody stepped up when they needed to and preserved the win for us."
Mifflinburg scored on its first three possessions to take a 20-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Jordan Wagner and Cole Walter each scored on one-yard runs for the first two Wildcat scores before Patrick Crissman hauled in a 15-yard pass from Wagner for the third touchdown. The Wildcats defense set up Crissman's scoring effort on a fumble recovery by Nazar Mironenko.
With Shore already trailing 20-0, it appeared as the Bulldogs were going deeper into the hole when Mifflinburg drove to a first-and-goal at the Shore 4-yard line.
However, that is when Boone Costa stepped in front of a Wagner pass and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown .
"Boone made a real nice catch on that interception," said Gravish. "He made some good moves to get loose and then just outran everyone for the score."
With the momentum of Costa's touchdown carrying over to the second half, Shore scored on its first possession, marching 74 yards on 11 plays, tailback Levi "Chuckie" Lorson going in from three yards out for the game's final score.
"We felt confident coming out (for the second half) and put on a good drive for the score," said Gravish. "You have to give them a lot credit because they are a pretty tough team too. We still believe in these guys and that is never going to change. We'll go back to work, come back out next week and try to beat Danville whether they are undefeated or not. We are looking forward to playing them."
As for the Mifflinburg domination in the first half, both coaches agreed that it resulted from the Wildcats controlling the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively.
"The battle up front is something we knew we had to win to be able to move the ball the way we wanted to and win the game," said Dressler. "We were definitely looking for our line to step it up this week and they did a good job getting it done."
Shore had two more possessions in the final minutes of the game, but both drives were stopped when the Bulldogs couldn't keep the chains moving.
For Mifflinburg, Cole Walter, probably better known as a state-ranked wrestler, carried the bulk of the runs with 76 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown.
"He is a real tough kid and tonight, he had a real good game," said Dressler. "That wrestling toughness showed in his competitiveness and he has been a great addition to our program this year by coming out. Not only did he do a good job offensively, but he also played some good defense as well."
For Shore, Lorson led the rushers with 73 yards on 20 carries and one score, while quarterback Logan English completed 10 of 15 attempts for 142 yards. English's favorite target was Costa who hauled in five aerials for 73 yards to go along with his defensive touchdown.