By: Matt Beltz | Williamsport Sun-Gazette | August 25, 2018
MIFFLINBURG — With a healthy Jase Wright in the backfield and the Wing-T offense being reinstalled at Hughesville under first-year coach Adam Gehr, the Spartans were understandably optimistic heading into their season opener at Mifflinburg, which was believed to be Hughesville's first regular season trip into the Western part of Union County since 1991.
However, Mifflinburg's defense stifled Hughesville, holding the Spartans to just 35 yards in the first half and only 103 for the game, and Wildcat quarterback Gary DeGroat engineered 267 yards of total offense to lead the Wildcats to a 22-7 win over the Spartans. Rylee Stahl caught eight of DeGroat's 20 completions for 119 yards as Hughesville was unable to slow down the duo.
"Mifflinburg did a great job shutting down our run game tonight. We have to do a better job coaching, we have to do a better job of blocking but that starts with the coaching staff coming together and putting these guys in better position to make plays," said Gehr. "We are capable of so much more, though, and the kids believe that and we're going to be just fine moving forward."
Wright was held to just 19 yards rushing, and was stopped for negative yardage on six of his 11 carries. He ran for 14 yards and a first down on Hughesville's first offensive play of the game, but that would end up being the second-longest play from scrimmage on the night for the Spartans, who made just six first downs in the whole game.
Mifflinburg made six first downs on its first drive alone, which ended in a touchdown that would be the only scoring of the first half. Robert Foltz caught a five-yard touchdown pass from DeGroat to cap a 13-play, 79-yard drive for the Wildcats, which included five completions by DeGroat, as well as a 22-yard run for the junior signal-caller, and a pair of third down conversions.
"Gary's composure and leadership tonight was showing. He was really into the moment and into the game, coming up with ideas and being a coach on the field," said Mifflinburg coach Jason Dressler.
Although Mifflinburg put together a 12-play drive and a nine-play drive in the second quarter, they were unable to score as the Hughesville defense forced a punt and stopped Mifflinburg on fourth down at the Hughesville 29.
The Spartans stopped another Mifflinburg possession deep in its own territory when Dylon Pequinot intercepted a DeGroat pass at the Hughesville 5 with 7:32 remaining in the third quarter. Hughesville was unable to do anything with its next possession, however, and Mifflinburg retook possession with great field position at the Hughesville 35 after a punt.
From there, DeGroat ripped off a 25-yard run and got an addition five yards on a facemark penalty, and two plays later, he punched it in himself from three yards out and following a two-point conversion, Mifflinburg led 15-0.
"We told the kids two weeks ago that DeGroat was their best player and we didn't want him to beat us but unfortunately he did tonight," said Gehr. "He's a great quarterback and I'm not sure we'll see a better one the rest of the season. Otherwise I'm happy with the defense. They settled down after that first drive and we bent a lot but didn't break. We'll get better there and correct the mistakes."
Hughesville answered with a nice 35-yard kickoff return by Carter Marquardt, giving them possession at the Mifflinburg 41. Spartan quarterback Jacob Corson the completed his first pass of the game to Wright for 32 yards – the Spartans' longest offensive play of the game – and two plays later found Colton Yocum in the end zone for an eight-yard reception to cut the lead to 15-7.
Pequinot picked up another interception on Mifflinburg's ensuing drive, but on Hughesville's next possession, Corson was knocked out of the game, and the Spartans would only gain 16 yards for the remainder of the game.
"I'm not sure of his status right now. We're hoping to have him back next week but we won't know until the prognosis comes back," said Gehr.
Mifflinburg put the game away midway through the fourth quarter on special teams. On a Hughesville punt from the 16, the snap went over Wright's head and into the end zone. Wright was able to recover and get off the punt, but it went straight up and landed in the end zone, where John Raker fell on it for a Mifflinburg touchdown.