JERSEY SHORE — When Mifflinburg and Jersey Shore squared off against each other Saturday night in a Heartland Athletic Conference Division I matchup, it appeared to be a game between two teams headed in opposite directions.
Going into the game the Wildcats were perfect at 4-0, while the Bulldogs were a mirror image of Mifflinburg at 0-4.
When the two teams were finished slipping and sliding through the Thompson Street Stadium mud, the direction of the two teams remained intact as the Wildcats moved their spotless mark to 5-0 with a 19-0 win, while the Shoremen found themselves still looking for that elusive first win of the season at 0-5.
“Considering the field conditions, I thought our kids really stepped up and played real well,” said Mifflinburg head coach Jason Dressler. “Our defense really played well once again this week and although running was difficult out there, we were able to throw the ball effectively and made some critical plays with our passing game and obviously it paid off for us.”
Although disappointed with the loss, Shore head coach Tony Confer felt that if a couple of things would have unfolded a little differently, it might have been a different story.
“On a night like tonight, it is tough to get much of anything going,” said Confer. “Defensively, our kids played their hearts out and I couldn’t have asked anything more from our defensive players. The defensive coaches called a heckuva game, but our offense isn’t suited for working in this kind of mud and muck. We had trouble with kids holding on to the pitches and when we did have time to throw the ball, it was slipping out of his (quarterback Caleb Barnhart’s) hand. A couple of times we had some things set up, but he (Barnhart) really struggled with gripping the ball. With the conditions as they were tonight, sometimes you can’t take advantage of some of the things that might work for you.”
Despite having lost all five games of the season thus far, the Bulldogs have played some good, tough football at times. However, in Shore Homecoming 2011 Saturday night at Thompson Street Stadium, the Wildcats took some of the bite out of the Bulldogs attack by combining a solid defensive effort with an opportunistic offensive attack to register the win.
“Mifflinburg is a good, physical football team,” said Confer. “But I thought our kids played physical right with them and it was only 7-0 until late in the game when a couple of mistakes hurt us by giving them opportunities. Our defense was really in a bad position a lot tonight and I wish we could have held them out when they punched that one (touchdown) in late, but it is what it is. They are a very good football team, they are 5-0 and they certainly deserve to be five-and-oh.”
Through the first four games of the season, the Wildcats have ridden the legs of Alex Vidanus, Micheal Wiand and Tanner Bingaman for a per-game average of 255 yards. However, Saturday night, it was the arm of quarterback Kyle Failor that did the damage to the Bulldogs as he connected on eight of 16 attempts for 123 yards and the game’s first touchdown.
“Coming into the game I am sure their scouting report indicated how much we have run the ball so they put eight and nine guys in the box,” said Dressler. “With the footing anything but good and our running game not going well, we took advantage of some other opportunities and capitalized on them.”
After a scoreless first period that saw Mifflinburg drive to the Shore 12 only to lose the ball on downs, the Wildcats took advantage of good field position at the Shore 49.
Six plays later, Failor found Oakley Whitesel wide open in the end zone for a 17-yard scoring connection. Whitesel added the PAT and with 10:19 remaining in the first half, the ‘Cats had all the points they were going to need for the win.
After an exchange of punts following the Whitesel score, the Bulldogs opted to try a field goal, and when the attempt literally got lost in the mud, the half ended with the Wildcats holding a 7-0 lead.
Although the Wildcats couldn’t capitalize on a blocked punt by Trevor Bowman to open the second half, they did make the most of a “muffed” punt by the Shore special teams that was recovered by Whitesel with time running out in the third quarter.
“That is the way it has been for us all year,” said Dressler about his defensive unit. “We have been able to rely on them because they constantly keep making the big plays for us. They have had their backs to the wall a few times, but somehow they just seem to persevere and are able to come out on top.”
Five plays after the recovery by Whitesel, Michael Wiand found the end zone from three yards out for the touchdown. The PAT misfired, but Mifflinburg held a 13-0 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
When Shore continued to have a lot of problems moving the ball, the Wildcats tacked on a consolation score with 2:12 remaining when Failor called his own number from one yard out for the touchdown to set the final.
Mlfflinburg 0 7 0 12 — 19
Jersey Shore 0 0 0 0 — 0
MIFF — Oakley Whitesel 17 pass from Kyle Failor. (Whitesel kick)(10:19)
MIFF — Michael Wiand 3 run. (rush failed)(11:00)
MIFF — Failor 1 run. (rush failed)(2:12)
Team Statistics MIFF JS
First Downs 7 6
Rushes-Yards 28-46 38-69
Passing Yards 123 0
Passing 8-16-0 0-2-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 5-1
Penalties-Yards 11-78 4-36
MIFF: Kyle Failor 9-25, 1 TD; Tanner Bingaman 5-7, Connor Pierce 2-7, Michael Wiand 11-5, 1 TD; Daniel Danowsky 1-2.
JS: Utoah Agae-Naipo 10-29, Boone Costa 2-19, Caleb Barnhart 23-17, Daniel Wrench 3-4.
MIFF: Kyle Failor 8-16-0, 123 yards, 1 touchdown.
JS: Caleb Barnhart 0-2.
MIFF: Connor Pierce 2-48, Bradee Ruhl 2-29, Michael Wiand 6-20, Oakley Whitesel 1-17, 1 TD; Toby Boyer 1-9.