Mifflin out-muscles Eagles
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Prior to Friday’s game, somebody in the Eagle Stadium pressbox was overheard stating that Governor Mifflin "may be the best 0-2 team in the State."
By the end of the game, those who witnessed the Mustangs 28-14 victory over previously unbeaten Cocalico couldn’t have argued that point.
Mifflin, which suffered a 21-0 Week One defeat to mighty Wilson, and a 27-20 loss last week to defending State AA champ Lancaster Catholic, played as if it was trying to prove a point Friday in the final non-league tune-up for both schools.
The Mustangs dominated the line of scrimmage, rolling up nearly 400 yards in total offense. Talented sophomore quarterback Jan Johnson led the charge, rushing for 177 yards and two scores while throwing for an additional 58 yards and a touchdown to lead his team to its first victory of the season.
"We proved that eventhough we were 0-2, we played two good teams and that we could bounce back from those losses and still be a good team," Johnson said following the win.
While Johnson was impressive, Cocalico Coach Dave Gingrich credited Mifflin’s huge line of sophomores Garrett Henry (6-0, 240) and Keith Miller (6-3, 285), juniors Connor Morehart (6-4, 270) and Jared Gill (6-3, 315), and senior Russell Leinbach (5-4, 215) as being the difference in this one.
"In the first half, we didn’t play very physical, we did not play very discipline, and they just took it to us," he said. "In the second half I thought we matched it a little bit, but overall, that’s a big, strong, physical team. I’d call that a weightroom win right there."
And it didn’t take Mifflin very long to flex its muscles.
On the game’s third play, Johnson kept around right end on an option, reversed field and went 71 yards down the left sideline for the quick 7-0 lead.
But Cocalico responded with an eight-play 75 yard drive to tie the score at 7-7. Mitch Shober broke a counter play for 55 yards to set it up, and five plays later quarterback Brock Gosling rolled right for a five-yard touchdown run.
After both teams traded punts, Mifflin went ahead for good early in the second quarter when the Mustangs took over at the Cocalico 42. After converting two key third down plays into first downs, Johnson went back to pass but was on the verge of being sacked by the Eagles’ Zach Rissler. But the sophomore QB slipped out of Rissler’s grasp, rolled right and hit running back Bret Chambers for a 20-yard score with 9:35 to play in the half.
"He’s a very nice quarterback as a sophomore," Gingrich said. "He’s got nice size and nice command of the offense. He knows where the ball needs to be and he has good command of what they are trying to do."
After the second of three, three-and-outs in the first half, Cocalico punted the ball back to Mifflin, and the Mustangs went 67 yards in 14 plays to take a commanding 21-7 lead.
On the drive, Mifflin converted two big fourth quarter plays to move the ball inside the Eagle 10 as the final minute of the half approached. On the next play, Johnson kept around right end and gave his team a two-score lead heading to the break.
"Our line was doing a real nice job," Johnson said. The holes were wide open most of the time, and we just played Mifflin football."
In the third, the Mustangs continued to ball control Cocalico the way the Eagles usually do to other opponents. Mifflin came up empty on a 13-play drive to start the third after recovering and Eagle fumble. Then, after holding Cocalico to another three-and-out, the Mustangs used a little luck to increase their lead to 28-7.
With a second and six from the Cocalico 35, Johnson rambled 25 yards before being stripped by the Cocalico defense. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Mifflin’s Aric Dupell was right there to scoop up the loose football and take it the remaining 10 yards for the score with 47 seconds left in the third.
"We finally strip a kid, and they pick it up and run it in…. It was just one of those things," Gingrich said."
But Cocalico would come to life after that, as running back Spencer Moser took a toss play around left end for a 75-yard touchdown run to cut the lead in half with one quarter to go.
Then, after another time-consuming Mifflin drive came up empty, the Eagles drove the length of the field before Gosling was intercepted by the Mustang’s Thomas DePaul with 2:42 to play.
"We got pushed around," Gingrich said in summing up the night. "We just need to get stronger and just get better."
For the game, Moser led Cocalico in rushing with 120 yards on just seven attempts. Workhorse back Nick Reidenbach, who had a big game against Reading last week, was held completely in check, rushing for just seven yards on six carries.
"They did a nice job on Nick," Gingrich said of Mifflin. "In the first half we were trying just about everything, and whether we were trying inside, outside, midline, different blocking schemes… we couldn’t get him on track. Again, that’s a tribute to their kids. They played very well."
Gingrich did say that in spite of the loss, it does not diminish what the Eagles accomplished the first two weeks in wins over Daniel Boone and Reading.
"Not at all. Our goal is always to get better week to week, and try to compete for a section championship. We didn’t get better this week. We got beat by a better team tonight, and hopefully we’ll refocus a little bit and get better next week. We need to be better next week, and we are going to get better and grow from this. The fact that we didn’t quit and came back in the second half and did some good things is something we can grow from."
The Eagles open Section Two play Friday night at home when they entertain Conestoga Valley.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. More MIFFLIN, page B-4