LEWISTOWN - Mifflin County football coach George Miskinis stood on the 50-yard line of Mitchell Field, head down, in stunned silence. Just minutes before, he thought the game was won. He believed the losing streak was snapped. He even had visions of being top seed in the Districts 6-9 playoffs.
Then the unthinkable happened.
The Huskies took a 21-20 lead late in the fourth quarter only to see it all come to a screeching halt when State College marched down the field on a six-play, 49-yard drive that ended with the game-winning touchdown, scored with just 44 ticks left on the clock.
Sentinel photo by MATT?STRICKER
Mifflin County celebrates as Heath Hidlay (5) crosses the goal line with the help from lineman Jesse Rodgers (56) overpowering State College defenders Mike Melia (34), Tim Slys (51) and Derek Van Horn (12). See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
The final read 26-21 in favor of the Little Lions in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth contest. Mifflin County went from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat in just over a minute.
Now, with one game remaining, the Huskies find themselves mired in a five-game losing skid after a 4-0 start.
"I'm speechless," Miskinis said. "Our players played their hearts out tonight. We did everything possible we could do to win and I told them in the huddle we were four seconds short from trying to get the ball in the end zone on the final drive. We're right there. We played our hearts out, we played with enthusiasm and we didn't quit when we were down. We just have to get better."
In a hard-fought, physical football game, the Huskies (4-5, 1-5) rallied from a 20-7 deficit with back-to-back scores in the second half.
The first score came by way of the big play.
Quarterback Hunter Walker caught the State College defense napping when Curtis Jerzerick got free and wide open up the middle of the field. Walker connected with the senior tight end and Jerzerick scampered 78 yards for the touchdown. The PAT by Andrew Traxler made it 20-14.
Mifflin County took its first lead of the game with 1:52 remaining in regulation. The Huskies went on a 14-play, 87-yard drive that consumed almost seven minutes off the clock. Twice Mifflin County converted on fourth down to keep the drive alive. It ended when Hayden Hidlay rambled 11 yards for the score to give the Huskies a 21-20 advantage.
Hidlay totaled 73 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns.
"It turned into a field position game in the second half just like last week," Miskinis said. "They punched it in to open the second half and we were down by two scores. They pinned us back but we didn't give up. We got the big play to Jerzerick and then we drove down the field near the end of the game. It was a great drive.
"It looks like we left too much time on the clock. Maybe we should have had our kid (Hidlay) fall down on the 2-yard line and eat up some more of the clock. In retrospect, you hate to say something like that, but the clock wasn't our ally.
State College (5-4, 4-2) got a big shot of momentum on the ensuing kickoff. Derek Van Horn took the kickoff 36 yards to midfield, setting up the game-winning drive.
"The big kickoff return set it up for them," Miskinis said. "You can't let them start their two-minute drive on your side of the field."
The Little Lions started the drive with a 14-yard pass from quarterback Pat Irwin to Jordan Misher and an Irwin to Jake Knouse pass for 12 yards gave State High a first-and-10 at the Husky 23. Irwin kept the ball rolling with passes of five and 14 yards to Van Horn, putting the ball on the three with 47 seconds left.
On the next play, Irwin took it in from three yards out to give State College the lead for good.
"This was a great game and hopefully we'll have more like this in the years to come," State College coach Al Wolski said. "We expected a tough, physical game from them and that's what we got. I can't say enough about our kids and how hard they played. After they scored they didn't put their heads down, they came back out and did a great job of moving the ball down the field. The coaches did a great job and the kids showed a lot of poise."
In addition to his touchdown run, Irwin finished the game with 144 yards on 12-of-20 passing.
"He's got the physical ability. He's also a runner by design when we run the veer. He's been solid all season long for us," Wolski said.
Mifflin County had a chance with the ball starting on its 39 with 38 seconds left in the game, but the Husky drive ran out of time on the Little Lion 24.
"We need to score more points and give up less. It really does come down to that," Miskinis said. "Sometimes we're a little too aggressive and we overrun the play and other times we play extremely sound and we stop it. We just have to get more consistent.
"It was one of those games that was exciting for the fans and the coaches and hopefully we'll see them again down the road."
State College opened up a 14-0 lead with a 12-yard run by Jordan Misher and a two-yard touchdown plunge by Anthony Misher.
Hidlay made it 14-7 at the half with a five-yard touchdown run.
The Little Lions scored on their first drive of the second half with Knouse, who had 81 yards rushing on only six carries, scoring from 17 yards out to make it 20-7.
Mifflin County ends the regular season Nov. 1 at home against Chambersburg.