SHILLINGTON >> As things turned out, that vaunted Veer offense, run to so much success over the years at Governor Mifflin, was no big thing to the Harrisburg Cougars Friday night.
Harrisburg held Governor Mifflin to 104 yards rushing on 33 attempts and intercepted Mustang quarterback Kameron Wolfe three times — two returned for scores — as the Mid-Penn Conference Cougars rolled into the District 3 5A championship game with a 46-21 shut down of the Berks Section 1 champions on their home turf.
Harrisburg (9-3) will face Manheim Central for the 5A title next Friday night at Hersheypark Stadium. The Mustangs finished their season at 10-2, losses bookending a 10-game winning streak.
Harrisburg simply proved too quick in the trenches and too fast at the skill positions offensively for Mifflin to handle. The Veer never really got cranked, and Mustang caretaker head coach Jeff Lang sensed it early. The home team’s game plan was basically incinerated before the first half was over.
“It was evident right away that we couldn’t run the ball on ‘em,” Lang said. “They had beef up front. The ends were able to read the fullback and the quarterback at the same time. That’s when we went to the shotgun passing game. We had some success there but the picks didn’t help. It’s not our forte and it’s not what we wanna do.”
The Cougars pressured Wolfe — who took over under center full-time when cohort Austin Baker was dinged up on a crushing hit in the first quarter on an option pitch — into hurried decisions, two of which proved to be daggers after the break.
The first was performed by Robert Kent, who jumped a route in the flat and returned it 24 yards for a pick six with 6:05 left in the third quarter to give Harrisburg a 34-7 lead. That play took the air out of Mustang Stadium and confirmed the inevitable.
The second was an interception by Donnell Henriquez at the Cougar 18, late in a very long third stanza, that set the mercy clock in motion. Henriquez cut all the way across the field, beat Mifflin’s D to the edge near midfield and took it to the paint for an 82-yarder the other way to made a 46-7 game.
Harrisburg — already potent defensively — was aided by the additions of juniors Micah Parsons and Zion Patterson from Central Dauphin and Carlisle, respectively, in a pair of late-season transfers. Parsons rumbled for a trio of touchdowns out of the backfield, a wrinkle to his game not realized at CD but put to good use by Harrisburg. His third and final score, a 21-yard run, saw the Penn State verbal carry three Mustangs into the end zone. He finished with 93 yards rushing on 10 totes. From his trademark position, defensive end, Parsons got off the edge quickly and was a disruptive force. He snuffed out one Mifflin probe with a 16-yard sack of Wolfe at the Cougar 40 when it was still a quasi-ballgame to make it a 4th-and 36.
Patterson was key in coverage for the Cougars, patrolling the second level with veracity and making life miserable for Mustangs receivers all night.
The build has been steady for Harrisburg, but the additions have kicked the Cougars into overdrive — posing a lethal threat not just for Manheim Central next week, but beyond.
“They played fundamentally and they played well,” Harrisburg head coach Cal Everett said of his defense. “They read their keys, we were able to get them out of what they like to do. We wanted to make them pass the ball and that played into our hands.
“(The Veer) is extremely difficult to handle but at the end of the day, it comes down to just following your assignments and reading your keys.”
Harrisburg’s Joel Davis capped an eight-play, 59-drive late in the first quarter with a 4-yard run to break the ice. Cougars’ quarterback Yahmir Wilkerson dug his team out of a 4th-and-13 at the Mifflin 29 with a 17-yard strike to Henriquez to keep the drive alive.
Parson’s first TD was an 8-yarder early in the second, the finish to a seven-play, 56-yard campaign set up by a short Mifflin punt. Davis ran a botched snap into the end zone for a 2-pointer and a 15-0 lead.
With 3:36 left in the half, Wilkerson connected with Shaquon Anderson-Butts on a 70-yard fly for a score to make it 22-0, the margin at the break. Wilkerson found a favorite target in wide out Anderson-Butts, who caught three balls for 113 yards, all in the opening half.
The Mustangs realized a glimmer of hope when Wolfe connected with Aaron Grill for a 23-yard slant and a score, coming thanks to a snuffed run off a punt attempt, to make it 22-7 with 6:49 left in the third.
But Harrisburg came right back with Parsons’ second TD, a 32-yard rumble, four plays later to quickly re-establish control.
District 3 5A semifinal
Harrisburg 46, Governor Mifflin 21
H – 7 15 24 0 — 46
GM – 0 0 7 14 — 21
H – Joel Davis 4 run (Davis kick), 1:55
H – Micah Parsons 8 run (Davis run), 10:10
H – Sahquon Anderson-Butts 70 pass from Yahmire Wilkerson (Davis kick), 3:36
GM – Aaron Grill 23 pass from Kam Wolfe (Ben Myers kick), 6:49
H – Parsons 32 run (run failed), 6:11
H – Robert Kent 24 INT return, (run failed), 6:05
H- Parsons 21 run (pass failed), 4:24
H – Donnell Henriquez 82 INT return (kick failed), 3:36
GM – Ajay Sczepkowski 3 run (Myers kick), 9:16
GM – Isaac Ruoss 2 run (Myers kick), 5:26