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Juniata football upended 55-13 by tough Franklin & Marshall squad

(Posted September 25, 2010)

LANCASTER, Pa. -- An end-of-the-first quarter Juniata College lead didn't hold up against a tough Franklin & Marshall College squad, as the Eagles dropped a 55-13 Centennial Conference loss to the Diplomats on Saturday afternoon at Sponaugle-Williamson Field.

Juniata (0-4, 0-4 Centennial) finished with a season-high 219 yards of total offense against the Diplomats (3-1, 2-1 Centennial), who were ranked 25th in The Sporting News Preseason Top 25 poll.

Freshman quarterback Gino Ramires (Johnstown, Pa./Richland) accounted for 105 yards of that in his first career start, completing 14 of his 24 pass attempts with one touchdown and no interceptions.

Abram Mellinger (Ronks, Pa./Lampeter Strasburg) hauled in six receptions for a season high 53 yards, while senior Ronnie Shrift (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) had five catches for 29 yards and his third career touchdown catch - his first in nearly two seasons. On the ground, senior tailback Derek Kramer (Newville, Pa./Big Spring) rushed 20 times for 75 yards.

But the best news for Juniata may have been the play of Ramires, who demonstrated an ability to make plays against a solid F&M defense. Ramires made passes on the run, dodged pressure in the backfield, and was able to turn busted plays into positive yardage several times during the afternoon; his best effort may have been a five-yard gain on a 2nd-and-10 play late in the first quarter, in which Ramires nimbly weaved his way up the middle for a gain on a busted play with several Diplomat linebackers in pursuit.

Juniata looked good on both offense and defense right out of the gate in the first quarter.

Eagle corner Andrew Masullo (Bellefonte, Pa./Bellefonte) picked off F&M quarterback John Harrison's first pass attempt of the game, giving Juniata the ball near midfield. Ramires then engineered a well-executed drive downfield, culminating in a nine-yard touchdown pass to Shrift. Ramires hit Shrift in the back right corner of the endzone, capping a nine-play, 54-yard drive.

Following a Diplomat touchdown to knot the game at 7-7, the Eagles regained the lead with a 35-yard field goal by Scott Andrews (Hollidaysburg, Pa./Altoona Area) with 1:57 showing on the first quarter clock. A 17-yard Ramires-to-Mellinger hookup fueled the drive, as did a pair Franklin & Marshall 15-yard penalties.

Hoever the Diplomats scored on four of their next five possessions, and headed into the locker room with a 35-10 lead at the half.

Juniata's opening drive of the second half looked almost a impressive as its initial possession of the game. The Eagles took the opening kickoff and pushed all the way to the Diplomat six-yard line, with Kramer carrying four times for 40 yards on the drive. A fumble into the endzone was recovered by F&M's Drew Hutcheon, and Juniata was turned away with no point.

Masullo picked off a Harrison pass three plays later on the Diplomat 36. A Ramires scramble down the left sideline on 3rd-and-7 gave the Eagles a first down at the F&M 12, but Juniata could get no farther and settled for a 29-yard field goal by Andrews. That cut the margin to 35-13 for Franklin & Marshall with 6:31 remaining the third quarter.

After forcing the Diplomats to go three-and-out, the Eagles were pinned at the their one-yard line on the punt. After moving the ball out to the Juniata 24, Ramires was sacked for a loss of 10 yards and fumbled the ball - which was recovered by the Diplomats' Donald Wiezik at the 14-yard line and carried into the endzone for F&M's sixth touchdown of the day.

The Diplomats tacked on two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, taking a 55-13 lead by the 6:19 mark of the frame.

With reserve quarterbacks Brian Pugh (Valley Stream, N.Y./Holy Cross HS), George Bivens (Davidsville, Pa./Conemaugh Township) and Andrew Gilford (Taneytown, Md./Westminster) at the helm, Juniata put together an impressive drive at the end of the game.

Starting at their own 32, the Eagles moved all the way to the F&M five-yard line. However Bivens' 4th-and-goal pass attempt was picked off in the endzone with 1:48 remaining, and the Diplomats ran out the clock for the win.

Defensively, Juniata was paced by freshman linebacker Kevin Gorman (Waverly, N.Y./Waverly Central) with six tackles, five unassisted. Senior lineman Matt Walton (West Chester, Pa./Downingtown West) had five tackles, all solo stops, with one sack for seven yards.

F&M tallied 355 yards of offense on the day, with Harrison connecting on 14 of 21 pass attempts for 198 yards. Receiver Jay Ridinger had 155 yards receiving on seven catches; Diplomat tailback John Kaschak was held to 61 yards on 11 carries.

Juniata enjoys a bye week next week, before returning to action on October 9 when it travels to Allentown, Pa., to face Muhlenberg College.

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