SPRING MILLS — In a matter of moments, the uphill path the Penns Valley football team would have to climb got steeper. Nineteen seconds later a victory was well out of reach.
Juniata (1-0) needed just one minute late in the second quarter to pile on 23 points off of turnovers, enact the running-clock mercy rule and seal its 45-7 rout of Penns Valley (0-1) in both teams season openers on Friday night.
The second quarter was a bad quarter all the way around, Penns Valley coach Martin Tobias said. Five turnovers and (two) 15-yard penalties in the second quarter alone. You cant make mistakes like that. We lost our composure, obviously and things steamrolled on us and went downhill.
After the Indians scored on their first drive of the game an 11-play, 51-yard trip to the end zone capped by a five-yard Joshua Newcamp run Penns Valley ran into a wall and was forced to punt after just five plays.
Penns Valleys defense stood firm, forcing a Juniata punt immediately thereafter. But the Rams couldnt get any momentum going offensively.
At the end of the first quarter, I thought with it 7-0, we had a chance and we were right in it, Tobias said. No question Juniatas a good team, but we certainly helped them out.
While Juniata played a clean first half, Penns Valley lost three of five first-half fumbles, threw two interceptions and committed six penalties for 45 yards.
Their second-quarter misfortunes began as the Rams second drive of the game ended with a turnover on downs. Signal-caller Cameron Tobias tried to run right but was stuffed for a loss of two on fourth-and-1 at midfield.
Juniata took advantage, engineering a 76-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 33-yard Scott Sneath run to cross deep into Penns Valley territory. Five plays later, Neil Bodleys three-yard run and short two-point conversion plunge gave the Indians a 15-0 lead.
The Rams next drive ended with a thud, as well.
Four plays and two first downs into the drive, running back Dom Hook was stripped of the football which Juniata recovered at its own 33-yard-line.
The Penns Valley defense did its part, forcing a second Juniata punt after just five plays, however.
But return man Taylor Collison muffed the following punt and as the ball bounced into the end zone, Juniata lineman Klay Palm hopped on it for another score. With another two-point conversion, Juniata took a 23-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Rams put the ball on the ground again.
Ian Brown fielded the kick deep in his own territory and made a handful of Juniata tacklers miss on his way to a nice return. However, Brown lost hold of the ball at his own 42-yard-line to set Juniata up at Penns Valleys 46-yard-line.
It only took one play for the Indians to strike. Bodley took a short drop and fired down the left sideline to a wide-open Chad Eberle. Bodley kept the ball up the middle again for a two-point play and Juniata increased its lead to 31 points.
Our kids played on top of their game, Juniata coach Gary Klingensmith said. They didnt turn over the ball at all and they played aggressively. It was close for a while at the beginning there, but our kids, they brought their A Game and I couldnt be prouder of them.
Set up on his teams own 24-yard-line after a short return, Tobias dropped back on first down but overshot his intended target. The ball landed instead in the outstretched arms of Mark Zearfus at midfield. Juniata used a 15-yard facemask call to its advantage in addition to a 27-yard pass hook-up between Cole Kellison and Zearfus to quickly move the ball into Penns Valley territory. The Indians took a 38-0 lead after Sneath hammered ahead on a four-yard run and extra point.
Both teams traded clock-eating possessions in the third. Penns Valley cleaned up its turnover issue, keeping the ball on each of its drives. But Juniata put together a seven-play scoring drive with backup quarterback Cole Kellison under center to cap its scoring when Kellison trotted into the end zone from nine yards out.
Penns Valley finally got on the board when Hook ended a five-play drive with a nine-yard run.
There are a lot of things that we can take away from this in a positive (way), Tobias said. Including that we need to learn how to ride out the mistakes and handle adversity.
Travis Johnson can be reached at 231-4629. Follow him on Twitter @traviswjohnson_