When he thinks about the 2004 Brookhaven High School football team that won the only state championship in the history of the City League, Anthony Thornton refers to former Bearcats quarterback Mike McGee as that team's trigger.
Thornton, who was offensive coordinator for Brookhaven when it went 15-0 in 2004 and is in his third season as Mifflin's coach, has a player who reminds him of what he had behind center 13 years ago in senior Daveonn Logan.
While McGee passed for about 1,900 yards with 22 touchdowns in 2004 before going on to play for Ohio University, Logan threw for more than 1,800 yards with 25 touchdowns a year ago.
Logan could be on his way to far surpassing those numbers this fall for the Punchers, who opened with three consecutive wins and look to be on their way to their first winning season since 2012.
Thornton's biggest compliment of Logan, though, might be the control he allows him to have.
"He runs our offense," Thornton said. "When you've got a trigger like that, it rocks and rolls."
The Punchers fell to 3-1 overall with a 14-8 loss to three-time defending City League-North Division champion Beechcroft on Sept. 15 in their league opener. Last season, the Cougars beat Mifflin 40-14.
Mifflin will get a chance to avenge a 32-15 loss to Northland last season when it plays host to the Vikings on Friday, Sept. 22.
The Punchers went 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the City-North a year ago, placing fourth in the league behind Beechcroft (6-0), Northland (5-1) and Whetstone (4-2).
Logan has tried to listen intently to Thornton, a 1987 Brookhaven graduate who played the same position.
"Footwork is (Thornton's) main thing because my footwork was not that good," Logan said. "I used to be slow, but he's helped me tighten up. It's just been progressive (improvement)."
Logan attended a charter school in middle school and then was a student at Cristo Rey as a freshman. He was on the Punchers' football team as a freshman because Mifflin is his home district, but because Cristo Rey didn't let out until 4 p.m., he often would miss extensive practice time.
Logan transferred to Mifflin as a sophomore and, despite having little experience at quarterback, was handed the starting job that season.
"I was the only one that could throw the ball," Logan said.
The Punchers, who went 3-7 in 2015, might have had their best moment with Logan as their quarterback on Sept. 8 when they beat Harvest Prep 55-48.
Logan passed for 332 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for two touchdowns against the Warriors, who were a Division VII state semifinalist a year ago.
He had thrown for 11 touchdowns and rushed for four scores through three games.
Aman Thornton had two touchdown receptions and Jeremiah Jackson caught two touchdown passes and returned an interception for a score against Harvest Prep.
Logan hopes the game against the Warriors was the beginning of the next step for the Punchers, who last made the postseason in 2002 under current Northland coach Brian Staats.
"(The win over Harvest Prep) was the funnest game I've ever played in," Logan said.
"We all grew up together, so we can hold each other more accountable. When we get together, we all know when to get serious. We didn't come together (last year, but) this year we made it a goal since December that we're going to the playoffs."
Vikings football team
a 'work in progress'
Staats took the Northland football team's start in stride.
Over the first three weeks, the Vikings lost non-league games to Mansfield Senior (42-21 on Aug. 25) and Granville (44-26 on Sept. 8). Mansfield Senior won two of its first three games and Granville won its first three.
Northland opened City-North action with a 62-13 victory over Centennial on Sept. 15 to improve to 2-2 overall and continues league action Friday, Sept. 22, at Mifflin.
The Vikings' first win came against Whitehall, 31-28 on Sept. 1.
"It's a work in progress," Staats said. "I think we played three pretty decent teams (to open the season). Granville is really good and Mansfield Senior is really good. I think Whitehall's going to win some games.
"There are a few things here or there that we've got to fix, and if we can get those things fixed, we can get some consistency. (Mifflin is) always competitive."
Against Granville, junior running back John Branham Jr. ran for a touchdown and returned one kickoff and one punt for scores, while his brother, sophomore wide receiver Kalil Branham, caught a 26-yard touchdown from quarterback Mike White.
Defensively, according to Staats, junior lineman Jordan McCall has been an early standout.
Cougars football team
looking to hit stride
After scoring a combined 14 points over the season's first three weeks, the Beechcroft football team opened City-North play Sept. 15 at Mifflin by increasing its consecutive league winning streak to 21 games with a 14-8 victory.
The Cougars are 1-3 overall and continue league action Friday, Sept. 22, at East, which is coached by former Beechcroft assistant Wes Edwards.
"We're playing defense," first-year coach B.J. Queen said. "The (first three) teams we played (were) a combined 10-2 (through three weeks). We've gotten better, obviously, and we played Walnut Ridge in a dogfight."
Beechcroft lost to the Scots 6-0 on Sept. 8.
According to Queen, seniors Suliman Conteh (WR/DB), Jermayne Crowell (OL/DL), Sincere Henderson (WR/DB), Deonteze Newsom (OL/DL) and Shemar Samuel (RB/LB) and junior Elijah Hairston (LB/OL) have been among the standouts.
Against Mifflin, Conteh scored on a 60-yard pass from Jovaughn Hill and Hill ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
The Cougars then put together a goal-line stand late in the game.
"Whenever you change (coaching) staffs, it takes awhile for the staff to learn the kids and for the kids to learn the culture of the new staff," Queen said. "Obviously, losing 22 seniors, it's hard. I think I've got 31 eligible kids and half of them have never played football before. It's hard on those seniors that are used to things a certain way, but we're getting better each week."