It appeared early in Penns Valley’s season opener against Juniata that senior quarterback Cameron Tobias had a huge advantage against freshman quarterback Tyler Clark.
Leading his team to an early 14-0 lead at the half, Tobias and the Rams were ready to put the game away, but Juniata wouldn’t go down easily, bringing the final score to 21-16 before the Rams could notch a win in the season opener.
Before Juniata could made the game close, Penns Valley made it look easy. The Rams dominated the first half, putting up a 14-0 score in the frame by taking advantage of a slew of Juniata missed tackles.
“We told the kids at the halftime their tackles were too high,” Juniata coach Gary Klingensmith said. “You’re trying to get the jerseys, get the legs.”
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Juniata adjusted away from its defensive troubles in the second half, but before that could happen, Penns Valley lit up the scoreboard when Tobias connected with a wide-open Corey Hazel for a 31-yard pass play at 11:27 in the second quarter. It was 7-0 after Andrew Deardorff kicked the extra point.
The second score put Penns Valley up 14-0 when Sean Beamesderfer caught a 12-yard pass from Tobias and Deardorff again kicked the extra point with nine seconds left in the half.
A 35-yard passing play to Taylor Collison then gave Penns Valley the giant lead as the Indians still floundered scoreless with 4:47 left in the third quarter, but as the Indians started to rally it would turn out that lead is just what the Rams would need to pull out the win.
“I thought that we were a little bit erratic at places,” Penns Valley coach Martin Tobias said. “The first half some things came together, but they made some nice adjustments at halftime and those adjustments impacted what were were able to do or not able to do the second half.”
The Indians had to spread out the running game among several carriers and rely on Clark to put together the passes, and although their efforts had been fruitless for nearly three entire quarters, it finally started to come together.
They got on the board when Clark threw a 14-yard rocket to Sheldon Miller in the end zone, tehn early in the fourth quarter Ty Treaster busted through the line for a second Juniata touchdown.
Clark then connected with Miller for the second time on the two-point conversion, slicing Penns Valleyás lead to 21-16.
“He did a great job,” Juniata coach Gary Klingensmith said of his freshman quarterback. “He settled down once he got going, and he started looking for his receivers more.”
With less then seven minutes left to play, Penns Valley needed to keep Juniata off the board, but a loss on downs in its next possession looked grim for the Rams.
The situation only got worse when Juniata got a huge first down on a sketchy defensive interference play against Penns Valley’s Taylor Collison.
However, as Juniata charged forward, making it all the way to the Rams’ 30-yard line, a sack by Kevin Butts forced the Indians to punt the ball away on fourth and long, giving up the final possession to Penns Valley.
“That was huge,” Martin Tobias said of the sack. “There were a number of plays along the way — there were two sacks that came at critical times — but the one at the end to force them to punt really was ... that kind of put the nail in the coffin.”
Klingensmith also didn’t miss out on the importance of his team’s last offensive possession.
“We needed to get the ball one last time,” he said. “I thought if we could get the ball one last time we could win.”
Juniata (0-1) gets back in action Sept. 7 at Tri-Valley. Penns Valley’s next contest is at Clearfield on Friday.