Penns Valley (0-0) at Juniata (0-0)
Martin Tobias’ troupe rebounded, however, taking five of its last six to finish 5-5.
This season, the Rams look to explode out of the blocks with a veteran group poised to pick up where it left off.
Standing in their way will be the Indians’ 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior tailback Neil Bodley.
As a junior, Bodley rushed 175 times for 1,569 yards and 24 of the teams 43 rushing touchdowns. He also took the majority of snaps under center, although he only completed 13 of 47 attempts.
In their 2012 meeting, Bodley rushed for a game-high 73 yards on 16 carries against the Rams. Then-seniors Scott Sneath and Blake Ramsey ran for 68 and 50 yards, respectively, but with their departures Penns Valley could see even more of Bodley.
That will be a good season-opening test for a PV defense that allowed 1,171 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in its first four games last season, and gave up 40 points or more in four of five losses overall.
Top tacklers Liam Benfer (70, 38 solo) and Sam Koser (56, 32 solo) return as seniors to anchor the Ram defense.
Offensively, senior quarterback Cameron Tobias, threw for 1,252 yards with six touchdowns, and gained 352 more on the ground with four more scores as a junior. Tobias will be a key figure in the Rams’ option-style offense.
The loss of then-senior Dom Hook, a 5-foot-9, 225-pound bowling ball who finished second in rushing (87 carries for 415 yards, six touchdowns), will mean more responsibility for Tobias and senior do-it-all Taylor Collison.
Collison’s 462 yards on 86 attempts as a junior led the team, as did his 29 receptions for 348 yards.
Controlling the line of scrimmage will be huge.
Last season, a stingy Juniata defense, led by then-junior defensive end Joshua Newcamp’s seven solo tackles, held Penns Valley to just 128 yards on the ground, while the Indians’ backfield racked up 215 yards and four touchdowns.
Kevin Butts and Kenny Grubb are keys up front for PV.
Protecting the football is also a must. Tobias threw seven interceptions last season, two against the Indians. Hook also lost a fumble.
If Penns Valley wants to seize on last season’s momentum and take steps toward making a District 6 Class AA playoff run, Juniata presents the first major challenge.
- Aaron Carter