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Juniata football comes up short against Allegheny

(Posted September 6, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Turnovers at inopportune times and a Gator offense that managed to stay on the field for over 34 minutes helped lead Allegheny College to a 34-18 win over Juniata College, in NCAA Division III football action Saturday at Knox Stadium in Huntingdon, Pa.

Juniata's defense managed to effectively bottle up the Allegheny offense during most of the first half, keeping the Gators in their own end of the field on seven of their 10 first half possessions. Offensively, the Eagles twice turned over the ball inside the Gator red zone, both times cutting short drives that had had moved the ball at least 30 yards.

Allegheny got on the board on its second possession of the game, completing a nine-play, 60-yard drive with a 25-yard pass reception from T.J. Salopek to Pat Kahle at the 9:50 mark of the first quarter.

The first of four Juniata turnovers, a fumble by Tyler Hall (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) early in the second quarter after the Eagle defense had held the Gators to three-and-out, returned the ball to Allegheny at the Juniata 38. A 23-yard pass completion from Salopek to Jake Vite moved the ball all the way to the Eagle 15; six plays later, the Gators found the endzone on a Matt Cellini one-yard TD rush on fourth-and-goal.

Juniata's first touchdown of the game was both set-up and scored courtesy of the defense, starting with Andy Miller's (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) interception at the Allegheny 38 with 2:25 remaining in the second quarter. The Eagles moved the ball all the way down to the Allegheny six-yard line, but had the drive cut short following an interception by the Gators' Kyle Wilson in the endzone.

Salopek's first play from scrimmage at the Allegheny 20 was picked off by cornerback Bryan Jung (Bethlehem, Pa./Notre Dame), and returned 30 yards for the touchdown.

Back to back turnovers on the first two plays of the third quarter eventually left Juniata with the ball at its own 44-yard line. Jay Leonard (Newville, Pa./Big Spring) engineered a seven-play, 45-yard drive that carried the Eagles down to the Allegheny two-yard line, keyed by a 28-yard pass completion to Matt Dunker (Glenshaw, Pa./Shaler), and a pair of passes to tight end Ronnie Shrift (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle).

On third-and-goal at the Allegheny 6, Leonard was sacked and fumbled, squelching the Juniata scoring push.

Juniata went three-and-out on its next two possessions while the defense barely allowed the Gators to get to midfield, until a short punt and long Gator return set up Allegheny with a short field at the Juniata 32.

Allegheny's Salopek completed the drive four plays later with a four-yard completion to Nick Mains, stretching the Gators' lead to 21-6.

The Gators scored two more TDs early in the fourth quarter to widen the margin to 34-6, before Juniata could strike again. A 39-yard punt return by Brandon Spayd (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon Area) set up the Eagle offense at the Allegheny 48. Chad Steiner's (Frederick, Md./Frederick) 30-yard pass reception moved the ball down to the one-yard line, where Kyle McKechnie (Shillington, Pa./Governor Mifflin) punched the ball into the endzone with 7:31 left in the game.

Leonard closed out the scoring with a nine-yard rushing touchdown with 3:06 left on the clock, after J.D. Jones (Walkersville, Md./Gov. Thomas Johnson) forced then recovered an Allegheny fumble at the Gator 29-yard line.

Juniata managed just 230 yards of total offense, including 24 yards rushing, compared to 380 yards of offense for the Gators. The Eagles had held the Gators to just 156 yards of offensive - 47 yards rushing and 109 yards passing - at halftime.

Leonard completed 20 of 35 attempts for 206 yards, but threw two interceptions with no touchdown passes. Freshman Dan Fenton (Johnstown, Pa./Richland) led the receivers with seven receptions for 38 yards, while Steiner had a team-high 41 yards receiving. Lance Curry (Palmyra, Pa./Palmyra Area) tallied 40 yards receiving during the afternoon on four catches.

The Eagles went 1-of-13 on third down conversions, and were 0-of-2 on fourth downs.

Defensively, Juniata was led by Hall with 15 total tackles, including 14 solo stops. Hall also recorded one sack and three tackles-for-loss for 14 yards. Jordan Baird (Sayre, Pa./Athens Area) logged eight stops with 1.5 tackles-for-loss, while Josh Roy (Fredericksburg, Pa./Northern Lebanon) also racked up eight total tackles.

Juniata will play its next three contests on the road, starting with next Saturday's non-conference clash against Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa.

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.