LEWISTOWN - The rise in popularity of the Mifflin County Tomahawks and semi-pro football in the area has caught the attention of the powers that be in the Great Eastern Football Association.
The 10th annual Keystone Bowl, won by Mount Joy (Lancaster County) in a wild 66-64 affair over DuBois Saturday at Rec Park, marked the first time Mifflin County hosted the league championship, a sure indication of the growing fan base in the area.
And quite possibly the future home of more Keystone Bowl championships.
"Normally the bowl travels year to year and it just so happens this is our year. I am super glad to get it. I think this is great for us," said Mifflin County Tomahawks coach and owner Brian Rodgers. "I don't think people realize how big the league actually is. We have a team from Lancaster and a team from DuBois. That's like 220 miles between the two.
"The league is expanding into Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. Now there is a team in Maryland looking to come in. The opportunity for us being centrally located here is terrific. The league is actually discussing the possibility of having us host it from now on. It has to be voted on but how great would it be for us to have it every year?"
The Tomahawks began in 2003 and came to Mifflin County in 2010. This season, they finished with a 7-4 record and a berth in the playoffs. Rodgers said the future is only going to get bigger, better and brighter.
"We were in Burnham last year and while that was nice, Lewistown Borough has been very supportive letting us use their facilities. Our last game the official count was 327 people, which is a league record for attendance," Rodgers said. "Winning has a lot to do with our growth. The fact that we are getting more high school kids helps. Former Huskies on the team are Tim Beck, Mason Sweitzer, Danny Foster and Nate Jost. These are guys right out of high school and they are bringing fans.
"The things we are doing in the community as well have contributed to our growth. We've sponsored all kinds of things in town. We've put our name everywhere with signage and taken out ads in Mifflin County High School booklets. I think our biggest obstacle is still letting people know we are here. We had a charity game with the Burnham Bulldogs special needs team and those are the things we are trying to do more of. That was a big deal for us and we enjoyed it."
The goals Rodgers has for the Tomahawks are two-fold provide a platform for young athletes to further their careers and entertain the fans.
"I wanted to bring football to Mifflin County outside of high school. Being directly involved with the Huskies, I have a relationship with some of these kids. For us, I think it's a great opportunity for kids not going to college or not playing football in college to come here and further their football careers." Rodgers said. "Just as an example, four guys came out of the league last year and signed professional contracts, so it is a stepping stone for the kids. For financial reasons or whatever the reasons, they're not going to college and we are able to provide them something they can work into.
"Our biggest goal is to let everybody who likes football in Mifflin County to come out and see us. We want to try and get as much recognition as we can. I think we are providing a great service with the scoreboard in the park and solid entertainment for the fans."
For more info on the Tomahawks visit their website at www.mctomahawks.com/