By Kenny Varner
ALTOONA – Playing with a heavy heart Friday night, the MIfflin County Huskies football team left everything they had on the field before falling to Altoona in the District 6 Class 6A playoff contest 31-24 in the final seconds of the contest.
Earlier in the day the Huskies learned of former Huskies coach Scot Sechler lost his courageous battle with cancer.
In the contest itself, the Huskies lost their leading runner, Deakon Schaeffer due to injury in the team’s first offensive possession of the game.
“It was pretty emotional with Coach Sechler passing away this morning. It’s been a really tough day,” said MIfflin County coach Shane Breon. “I can’t be more proud of these kids of how they played under those conditions. They played their butts off for him and each other. It was great to see.”
Mifflin County would find itself down at the half, 21-14.
Altoona started with the ball to open the third quarter, they were able to work the ball down into the Huskies end.
However, the Huskies defense bent but didn’t break as it forced the Mountain Lions to attempt a field goal attempt from the 25.
The kick went wide, giving the Huskies the ball at the at their 20. On the second play from scrimmage Landen Eichhorn launched a pass to Isaac Wilson in stride. Wilson did the rest blazing his way down for the 80-yard TD, tying the game at 21 with 5:18 left in the quarter.
Defensively, the Huskies were able to keep the Mountain Lions in check and forced a punt. The punt was a short one, giving the Huskies some Momentum starting at the 24.
Altoona’s defense stood the storm as well, forcing the Huskies to attempt a 42-yard field goal. Kicker Isaac Parks-Gill set it through the uprights, giving the Huskies the 24-21 advantage going into the final stanza.
But Altoona’s offense continued to push the ball down the field, especially using the option to running back Julian Hazlewood. They also countered that with a strong up the middle running of Alex Yost, who ran for 126 yards on the night.
Altoona got the ball to the MIfflin County 11 where the Huskies defense once again stopped the Mountain Lions.
Forced to attempt another field goal, this time kicker Ian Pallia’s kick was good from 27-yards out, tying the game once again.
Altoona would get another shot as the clock was winding down in regulation. With 32 ticks left on the clock Yost would score from 11-yards out to take home the victory.
But the effort the Huskies played tonight was nothing but incredible for the circumstances they faced.
“We are so proud of these guys. That’s why it’s so emotional,” said Breon. “Losing Deakon hurt. Our pass protection was messed up. Those other kids don’t get the reps and they got after us. I knew they would. But losing him in the first quarter hurt pass protection wise. We felt we could get them on some things and we did. Our defense played well today. The last time we played these guys was a 38-0 final. I am just so proud how far these kids have come.”
Playing inspired ball, the Huskies came out and immediately went to work, moving the ball right down the field. Schaeffer highlighted the run with a 22-yard run, putting the Huskies on the Mountain Lions side of the field.
After two successful fourth down conversions by quarterback Landen Eichhorn, one to Isaac Wilson and one to Parker Kearns, the Huskies were in prime position to score.
They did just that as Eichhorn to Wilson on a 8-yard hook up. With the Isaac Parks Gill kick the Huskies had a 7-0 lead with 8:13 left in the first.
Altoona bounced right back as they later scored late in the first on a Julian Hazelwood 11-yard TD run. With the successful Ian Pallia kick at :52.
Without Schaeffer, the offense continued to grind it out. They notched their second touchdown on a Josh Cruz 67-yard run, giving the Huskies back a 14-7 advantage with 6:40 left.
With time running out in the first half, the Mountain Lions tied things up once again as Hazelwood scored on a 14-yard TD run with 1:12 left.
On a miscue on the following kick off, Altoona recovered the ball on the Huskies seven.
From there Altoona took the lead when Alex Yost scored on a 2-yard run with 36 ticks left.
When the two teams went into the intermission, the Mountain Lions led 21-14.
Altoona 7 14 0 10 -31
Mifflin County 7 7 10 0 – 24
MC – Landen Eichhorn to Isaac Wilson (Isaac Parks Gill kick), 8:13.
A- Tyson Reid 11-yard TD run (Ian Pallia kick), :52
Mc – Josh Cruz 67-yard run (Isaac Parks-Gill kick), 6:40
A-Julian Hazlewood 14-yard TD run (Pallia kick), 1:12.
A-Alex Yost 2-yard run (Pallia kick), 36.
MC – Eichhorn to Wilson 80-yard TD pass (Parks-Gill kick), 5:18.
MC – Isaac Parks-Gill 42-yard Field goal, 1:05.
A- Pallia 27-yard field goal, 5:43
A – Yost 11-yard TD run (Pallia kick), 32.
TEAM STATISTICS A MC
First downs 18 5
Total Yards 262 165
Rushes-yards. 228 58
Yards passing 34 107
Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 3-8-1, 5-14-1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 9-80 4-22 1/2
RUSHING: MC – Deakon Schaeffer 4-26, Josh Cruz 7-72, Landen Eichhorn 4 -(-42), Reagan Ettinger 2-2. AL – Alex Yost 25-126, Jimiere Hardison 4-36, Tyson Reid 2-20, Brennen Feiwald 7-7, Julian Hazlewood 13-139.
PASSING: AL – Freiwald 3-8-34
MC – Eichhorn 5-14-107.
RECEIVING : AL – Yost 1-21, Maison Barbera 2-13.
MC – Isaac Wilson 2-83, Schaeffer 1-0, Parker Kearns 2-19.