District 4 Class AAAA semifinals: Mifflinburg at Jersey Shore
Background: Jersey Shore is seeking its third straight District 4 championship and won its third straight HAC-I title earlier this season. The Bulldogs also completed their first undefeated regular season since 2014. Mifflinburg surges into the semifinals on a three-game winning streak and is playing its best football at the right time. The Wildcats are young, but have nearly matched last year’s win total while returning to the postseason.
Mifflinburg PPG–19.4, YPG–282.4; PPA–25.7, YPA–305.4
Mifflinburg facts: The Wildcats have regouped following a 1-3 start, survived a close call against Midd-West and have outscored their last two opponents, 77-14. Mifflinburg blanked Hughesville, 28-0 a week ago as its defense played one of its best games, allowing just 125 yards. Mifflinburg also forced four turnovers, recorded a safety and added four sacks. Sophomore Carter Breed intercepted two passes and sophomore linebacker Emmanuel Ulrich added an interception and a sack. Mifflinburg played without leading rusher Andrew Diehl last week, but has found quite a weapon in Colin Miller. The team’s leading receiver (22 catches, 266 yards) starting seeing a lot of carries against Midd-West and that is when the offense took off. Miller has run for at least 80 yards in three straight weeks, topping 100 twice, and going for a career-high 169 yards on just 10 carries against Hughesville. Quarterback Jacob Reitz was efficient as well, completing 9 of 12 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Mifflinburg player to watch–Gabe Stetler: The junior lineman has made a team-high six tackles for loss and is averaging 4.1 tackles per game. Five of those tackles for loss have come during the three-game winning streak and also is a good kicker whose 28-yard field goal made the difference in a 17-14 Week 2 win against Lewisburg.
Jersey Shore PPG–36.5, YPG–394.9; PPA–3.8, YPA–109.2
Jersey Shore facts: The two-time defending champions obliterated the competition the first four weeks, but have dug deep for each of their last two wins, dominating the fourth quarter in victories against Shikellamy and Central Mountain. Jersey Shore has outscored those teams 23-0 in the fourth quarter and responded from trailing for the first time all season last week by scoring 14 straight points and, winning 21-9. The offensive line has struggled in both games, but quarterback Branden Wheary threw for 225 yards and a touchdown. Owen Anderson continues performing well in all areas and caught a fourth-quarter touchdown while returning a punt for the game-clinching touchdown. He also dropped two fourth-quarter punts inside the Shikellamy 5-yard line two weeks ago, setting up a safety and a touchdown. Wheary leads the area in touchdown passes (16) and Cayden Hess in catches (36). Hess also has intercepted four passes. Dalton Dugan has emerged as a receiving threat with 18 catches and the defensive end helps spark a stifling unit which has allowed just 23 points in six games. Dugan leads the team in sacks (5 1/2) and had 1 1/2 more last week. Fellow defensive end Quincey Myers has flourished in his first year at Jersey Shore, making 4 1/2 sacks. Jersey Shore has held four opponents to fewer than 100 yards and last week was the first time it surrendered more than 117 in a game. Linebacker Gabe Packer is having another strong season, leading the team in tackles and making six tackles for loss. Linemen like Lee Springman, Ben Webb, Colin Samar and Conner Davis also have had strong seasons while sophomore cornerback Kooper Peacock has provided strong coverage in the secondary.
Jersey Shore player to watch–Hayden Packer: The sophomore linebacker has done an outstanding job in his first year starting, averaging 6.5 tackles per game and making four tackles for loss. Packer also has two sacks and played his best game last week, making a career-high 12 tackles, including eight solos. He also is a tough fullback who has run for a team-high four touchdowns.
Winner plays: No. 3 Shamokin or No. 2 Selinsgrove
Outlook: Jersey Shore has not looked as explosive the last two weeks, but it remains undefeated and has shown it can perform well under pressure. Those qualities help a lot at this time of year and, while Mifflinburg is coming on strong, Jersey Shore remains the field’s team to beat.