CHAMBERSBURG - Chambersburg did not run an offensive play in the third quarter until the final two minutes.
Yet during those first 10 minutes of the second half, the Trojans managed to increase their lead over Mifflin County from 24-14 to 38-14 and went on to hand the Huskies a 41-14 Mid Penn Commonwealth Division football defeat Friday night at Trojan Stadium.
The victory gave Chambersburg a 6-4 record (3-4 MPC) and its first winning season since 1998. The Trojans will play next week in the District 3 Class AAAA playoffs, with pairings yet to be determined. It was a tough loss for Mifflin County (4-6, 2-5 MPC), which saw its hopes for a District 6-9 Class AAAA playoff berth shattered.
Following a loss to State College last week, Mifflin County was forced to win against the Trojans to keep their hopes alive.
Huskies coach George Miskinis, unfortunately, had seen this script before.
"It's been the story all year - we make turnovers and that leads to big plays for the other team," he said.
That's a pretty accurate assessment of Friday's game. Mifflin County used a pair of touchdown runs by quarterback Shane Whalen - of 11 and 40 yards - to take a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
After a Trojan field goal of 26 yards by Kane Snider to make it 14-10, the Huskies were starting to drive again when bad things started to happen for them. Chambersburg's Kellen Williams stepped in front of a Whalen slant pass and picked it off at the Mifflin County 46.
Six plays later, on fourth-and-7 from the 25, Williams got free in the end zone and quarterback Ryan Martin found him for a touchdown and a 17-14 lead. It was the second TD pass from Martin to Williams on a fourth-down play.
On the second play after the kickoff, Whalen was intercepted again, this time by middle linebacker Dontez King, and he returned it 26 yards to the end zone. It was quickly 24-14.
"We had moved the ball well with the option and the first time we used a trips formation we had a guy wide open but we didn't throw it to him," Miskinis said. "The next time we tried it they adjusted by putting in an extra defensive back and got the pick."
Still in the game, the Huskies put together a strong drive to open the second half, notching three first downs to reach the Chambersburg 22. But on third-and-7, defensive end Bryan Baldassarri tackled Heath Hidlay as he was receiving an option pitch from Whalen and it jarred the ball loose. The Trojans' Keion Cuff picked up the fumble and carried it 73 yards for a killer touchdown.
As if that wasn't painful enough, after a three-and-out, Chambersburg's Jordan Brown took James Wilburne's punt at his own 46 and made some brilliant moves, somehow getting past the final two defenders near the sideline to complete a 54-yard punt return. It was now 38-14.
"The fumble return for a touchdown was the backbreaker," Miskinis said. "Even if he doesn't score, there was still a lot of time left. But then the punt return kind of sealed the deal."
"We've been able to get big plays this year and score on them," Chambersburg coach Mark Saunders said. "That's huge. And we were getting them from different guys, too, which is even better."
After the fumble return, Hidlay took over at quarterback, but the Huskies never again got close to scoring. Kyle Kahley led Mifflin County with 87 yards on 10 carries, which included a 53-yard jaunt that led to the first touchdown.
"Mifflin County will be a player in this league," Saunders said. "They can play power football, but they're just a little young in places. I can see them doing well in the future."