Central Mountain defense struggles again

LEWISTOWN Football, despite its myriad complexities, can be broken down to this basic success formula win the line of scrimmage and you win the game.

And that’s exactly what Mifflin County did in the second half against Central Mountain on Friday.

Tied 14-14 at the half, the Huskies dominated in the trenches by scoring 43 second half points to come away with a 57-35 victory over the Wildcats.

“I think our line stepped up tremendously. They took control and started to wear on them,” Mifflin County coach George Miskinis said. “As a matter of fact. I think we started to wear them down late in the second quarter with our final drive in the first half. You could see our line starting to take over the game and we were really starting to do what we wanted to do.”

The Huskies (3-0) rang up 424 yards of total offense, 337 coming on the ground against the inexperienced Wildcats, who dropped to 0-3 on the year.

“Not to make excuses but we have a bunch of young guys who are playing out of position,” Central Mountain coach Vincent Kishbaugh said. “I think if you count the starters tonight we had five sophomores and a freshman, so we have some growing pains and mistakes are going to happen. For the most part the kids played hard, but we have too many guys who are hurt and can’t get healthy.”

Mifflin County rotated a plethora of running backs during the contest with Heath Hidlay leading the way with 107 yards and three scores. Jadon Boyer (63 yards, one TD), Gage Reesman (50 yards) and Kyle Kahley (43 yards) also contributed to the ground attack.

On the flip side, the Wildcats were held to only 55 yards on the ground, 144 total.

“The line of scrimmage was the key to the whole game, like it is in most games,” Kishbaugh said. “We could not run the football, plain and simple. They made us one-dimensional. We did not have a good game up front at all.”

One bright spot for Central Mountain was the play of captain Tyler Pavalko. The senior had seven catches for 39 yards and a touchdown and also collected 90 and 87-yard kickoff returns for scores. All told, Pavalko had 296 total yards of offense, counting return yardage.

“Pavalko is unbelievable. Just a great kid. A true football player,” Kishbaugh said. “There’s a lot of kids who play football, but he’s a real football player through and through. He does amazing things, week in and week out and that kid is going to have a bright future playing somewhere on Saturday.”

The Huskies struck first blood when quarterback Brice Christine connected on a 44-yard scoring pass to Curtis Jerzerick on their opening drive. Christine would leave the game with a head or neck injury in the second quarter. Andrew Traxler made the PAT for the 7-0 lead.

Following a Justin Neff pick of Tyler Walker, Pavalko tied the game with a six-yard TD catch from Bryce Bitner. Kathryn Myers buried the PAT to make it 7-7 with 6:23 left in the second quarter.

Mifflin County answered with an 11-play, 41-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard quarterback sneak from Walker to make it 14-7 with only eight seconds left in the first half.

The lead was short-lived when Pavalko took the ensuing kickoff 87 yards to make it 14-14 at halftime.

“The injury to Brice scared our kids and I said to the trainer at half that I never seen that kind of look on our team before,” Miskinis said. “I don’t think we took them lightly in the first half. We needed to get that mental block out of our heads after watching Brice get carted off the field. The kids started playing too cautiously after that and it lingered through the whole second half.”

Mifflin County blew the game open with 22 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a commanding 36-14 advantage.

Jerzerick scored his second and third touchdowns of the game with a 43-yard pass from Walker and a 15-yard fumble return to paydirt. Throw in a safety and a Hidlay nine-yard score and just like that the Huskies were in control. Jerzerick finished the game with two receptions for 87 yards and three scores.

Central Mountain hosts Bellefonte, while Mifflin County travels to Carlisle this Friday.