Too many mistakes and Juniata’s run game brought an end to the Bald Eagle Area football season Saturday night.
Juniata racked up 261 rushing yards while the Eagles turned the ball over seven times in a 41-19 loss in the District 6 Class 3A first round at a rain-soaked Dietrick Field.
“Unfortunately, we cut ourselves short,” BEA coach Jesse Nagle said. “We could have played a lot better against them, especially in that first half. Turnovers — they hurt us all season.”
The Indians (8-3) will face Huntingdon in the semifinals next weekend.
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Blake Roberts paced the rushing attack for the Eagles (4-7) with 15 carries for a game-high 79 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Jaden Jones was 17-for-33 passing for 145 yards and one score, but he was picked off four times. BEA also had three fumbles lost — and put the ball on the ground eight times.
The numbers were a little different on the other side of the field.
Juniata quarterback Jeremiah Parsons guided the offense that spread the ball around to five running backs throughout the game. RJ Becker led the ground game with 13 carries for 75 yards and a 22-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Parsons had 10 carries for 57 yards and two scores, and was 5 of 10 passing for 49 yards and two more touchdowns.
“Our offense — they couldn’t stop us,” Juniata coach Gary Klingensmith said. “They played their ends wide. We couldn’t get outside, but we could get underneath them. They tried blitz and all, but we were able to pound them underneath the ends on either side.”
The ability of the Indians to run the ball up the middle, advance on long, sustained drives and push the Eagles around had Nagle frustrated.
“We were getting some down blocks on us that we weren’t fighting really tough in there,” he said, “and our linebackers weren’t filling as much as usual. I don’t know why that is.”
Included in that ground success were a pair of 12-play drives and another that marched 89 yards on 16 plays. However, only one of those drives produced a touchdown. One saw a missed field goal and the 89-yard drive resulted in the craziest sequence of the night.
The Indians had churned up the field from their own 10 all the way to the Eagle 1 before fumbling the ball away. BEA then fumbled the ball back on the next play at the 2, then the Juniata fumbled on the next play, but the ball tumbled into the end zone and Becker fell on the ball for the score.
BEA opened the second half with a speedy march down the field, highlighted by a 53-yard Roberts run, but the drive stalled at the 10, turning the ball over on downs and setting up that 89-yard Juniata drive.
Already battling the turnover bug, trailing by three touchdowns and a hard rain falling, Nagle knew that opening drive after halftime was the best chance for the Eagles to get back into the game. BEA trailed 35-13 at the half.
“Second half we’re fighting a pretty good deficit,” Nagle said. “But you still believe and you keep on fighting. If we score that opening drive of the second half, it could have been a different ballgame. Again, it’s a missed opportunity.”
Roberts found the end zone on second-quarter runs of one and three yards, with the former right before halftime to give BEA momentum heading into the break. Jones hit Nick Turner on an 11-yard strike in the fourth, but the hole was too deep and muddy for the Eagles.
Being able to run the ball well and capitalize on miscues gave the Indians confidence — which they will need against the powerful, diverse offense of Huntingdon next weekend.
“In the playoffs everyone is good from here on out,” said Ben Lauver, who scored on two of his three catches. “We get to play another week instead of going home, especially for the seniors, we get to keep playing.”