READING >> It was Governor Mifflin’s turn to take center stage at First Energy Stadium on Friday night, in the second of six high school football games to be played at the 68-year-old home of the Reading Fightin’ Phils during an eight-day span, the first such contests in 36 years.
The Mustangs used the occasion to reveal that their season may finally be getting back on track.
Governor Mifflin (2-3, 2-0 Berks 1) flashed a big play defense and did enough on the other side of the ball to flatten Reading, 49-12, and score a second divisional victory in the county after uncharacteristically opening the season with three straight losses. The event (boosted by its outcome, of course) left Mifflin head coach Jeff Lang impressed.
“The place is beautiful, this was just awesome,” Lang said. “The kids came out here and their eyes were as big as saucers. I played college football all over the place and I have to tell you, this is one of the nicest fields I’ve ever been on.”
Conrad Weiser and Twin Valley are next up at First Energy Stadium, set for a Saturday night date.
The Mustangs had beaten Muhlenberg by 27 points last week to finally get on the board. Their performance Friday night, in front of 2,931 fans at the old ballpark, provided hope that it still may be business-as-usual in the county’s top section — though there are still things to be cleaned up. It was a not clean and tidy outing.
Mifflin pilfered a pair of interception returns for touchdowns in the first half, one of three such plays during the opening 24 minutes. But they coughed one up going the other way, for the very rare pick-6 trifecta. Lang could not recall having played or coached in a game in which that happened.
“To have one in a game is something,” he said. “To have three in game, well, that’s some sloppy football from what I see, both sides.”
Mifflin’s senior safety/wide out Michael Franks had quite the game. Playing center field early in the second quarter, Franks picked off Reading quarterback Branden Boutte at the Mustang 47, returned it 10 yards, cut and reversed field, found a wall and took it to the opposite side and in for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead. It was the first of the “trifecta”. Later in the stanza, he caught a 50-yard scoring pass from quarterback Kolbie Reeser on the final snap of the half to extend the margin to 36-6.
“Right when I reversed field, my legs felt like Jell-o,” Franks said. “I thought about diving for the pylon because I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I knew I had to keep bustin’ it as hard as I could because it felt like I was gonna fall.”
Two Reading possessions after Franks burned the Red Knights, Jake Gelvin did the same thing, this one for 30 yards. Gelvin tacked on two more points when a botched snap on the PAT forced a desperation pass into the end zone from holder Connor Naugle, which he went up and snatched to make it 29-0.
Reading (0-5, 0-2) got on the board with 1:05 to go in the half when Toby Ramos did to Reeser what the Mustangs had done twice to Boutte. An errant pass resulted in a 55-yard interception return for a score, the third one of the half. The conversion attempt was wide.
Reading gambled all night with a Cover O look — man press on the corners with no deep help. The Mustangs took several shots downfield and had guys pop open repeatedly behind the secondary, only to have Reeser overshoot the mark. Lang put the responsibility on the offensive line for the erratic accuracy under center.
Reeser was 7 of 14 for 132 yards overall with two touchdowns passing, a third rushing and two picks.
“It was frustrating at times, but he’s a good quarterback and he can make those throws,” Lang said. “We’ve just got to keep the defense out of his lap. Every time he has to throw off his back foot, falling backwards, he underthrows. We’ll get it cleaned up.
“We’re gaining confidence. We have a lot of young kids playing, sophomores and freshmen. It’s taken some time to have them gain confidence in themselves and we’re starting to see that.”
One of those youngsters, freshman running back Nick Singleton, opened the scoring on the game’s first drive with a 4-yard run, capping a short 7-play, 43-yard drive to get the Mustangs rolling. Singleton rushed for 63 yards on 13 carries to pace the Mifflin ground attack.
Naugle, a senior, made it 14-0 on a 12-yard jaunt to complete a 10-play, 73-yard series with 2:09 left in the first quarter.
After the break, Reeser hooked up with sophomore tight end CamRon Stewart on a 38-yard strike to paydirt to open it up at 43-6 and set the mercy clock in motion. Reeser’s 17-yard keeper with 6:21 to play closed Mifflin’s end zone evening at 49-6.
Reading’s Rafael Ayala caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Boutte with 23 ticks left for the final margin. The 36- yarder was nearly half of Boutte’s total for the night — he finished 8 of 20 for 74 yards, with that touchdown to go with three interceptions.
Mifflin held a struggling Reading attack, which clocked just 3 yards net rushing on 17 totes, to just 77 total yards.
Governor Mifflin 49, Reading 12
at First Energy stadium, Reading
Governor Mifflin – 14 22 7 6 — 49
Reading – 0 6 0 6 — 12
GM – Nick Singleton 4 run (Robert Turner kick), 8:57
GM – Connor Naugle 12 run (Turner kick), 2:09
GM – Michael Franks 53 int return (Turner kick), 6:34
GM – Jake Gelvin 30 int return (pass good), 6:34
R – Toby Ramos 55 int return (kick failed), 1:05
GM – Franks 50 pass from Kolbie Reeser (Turner kick), 6:28
GM – CamRon Stewart 38 pass from Reeser (Turner kick), 6:28
GM – Reeser 17 run (kick failed), 6:21
R – Rafael Ayala 36 pass from Branden Boutte (kick blocked), :23
GM 14, R 4
GM 30-200, R 17-3
GM 7-14-132-2, R 8-20-74-3
GM 332, R 77
GM 2-1, R 0-0
GM 9-80, R 6-60
GM 1-34.0, R 4-32.0
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