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Defense carries Juniata to first Centennial Conference win, 12-10 win over McDaniel

Defense carries Juniata to first Centennial Conference win, 12-10 win over McDaniel

HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Juniata quarterback Jay Leonard threw for 186 yards, completing 15 of 30 passes and ran for another 27 yards to lead his squad to its first-ever Centennial Conference (CC) football victory in two seasons in the league – a 12-10 triumph over McDaniel on Saturday.

The Eagles (1-4, 1-2 CC), who came into the game at a CC-low 57.0 rushing yards per game, ran for a season-high 153 yards as part of its season-best 339 yards of total offense.

T.J. Develin (Boyertown, Pa./Boyertown Area) led the Green Terror (2-3, 1-2 CC) with 88 yards rushing on eight carries but 70 of those yards came on one play.

On McDaniel’s third play from scrimmage Develin, who ran for short gains on first and second downs, found a hole in the middle of the line and took it 70 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the season and a 7-0 Green Terror lead 3:17 into the game. The play marked the longest run play for the Green Terror since Jamie Harris went for 89 yards and a score against Swarthmore on Nov. 4, 2000.

With McDaniel clinging to a 7-6 lead and six minutes on the third-quarter clock, Juniata forced a seventh consecutive three-and-out.

Punting from his own 47, Travis Wenrich (Wernersville, Pa./Conrad Weiser) unfurled a 52-yard punt that Brandon Spayd picked up at the one-yard line. A 36-yard return set the Eagles up at their own 37 with 4:12 to play in the period.

With a first down on the Green Terror 40, Leonard called his own number and took off for a 14-yard gain around the right end.

An 11-yard completion to Derek Kramer and 14-yard pass play to Matt Dunker put Juniata at the McDaniel 1.

Leonard wasted no time, diving in on the next play to put his team on top but a failed two-point conversation kept it a one-possession game with 1:21 to play in the period.

A 42-yard Paul Smith (Woodlawn, Md./Western Tech) kickoff return gave the Green Terror possession in Eagle territory.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Zach Swope (Jessup, Md./Hammond) found Matt Cahill (Havertown, Pa./Haverford Twp.) for a nine-yard gain and McDaniel moved the chains for the first time since Develin’s first-quarter run.

Six straight Eric Zwilsky (Knoxville, Md./Brunswick) rushes moved the Green Terror from the 28 to the Juniata 9 before an incomplete pass forced a Jay Leonard (Westminster, Md./Westminster) field goal attempt. The senior kicker was true from 26 yards out, pulling the visitors within 12-10 with 10:50 to play.

After four Kramer runs netted 16 yards, the Eagles’ Leonard went deep, finding Dunker for a 37-yard gain over a McDaniel defender at the Green Terror 15.

Five more Kramer carries moved the ball to the three-yard line but a juggling non-catch in the back of the end zone by Lance Curry turned the ball over on downs, giving McDaniel hope with 3:01 on the clock.

Swope engineered the ensuing drive, finding Cahill on a 15-yard fourth-down play and Zwilsky for a 12-yard gain on the next play.

A pair of four-yard gains set up fourth-and-2 at the McDaniel 44. With 41.6 seconds on the clock, Swope hit Austin Miller (Odenton, Md./Arundel) but a holding penalty made it fourth-and-12.

Swope found Cahill beyond the sticks on the play but Cahill was ruled out of bounds when he made the catch, turning the ball back over to Juniata with 30.8 seconds on the clock.

After Develin’s early touchdown run – the squad’s eighth scoring drive that took fewer than three minutes this season – the Eagles countered with an 11-play, 57-march to the McDaniel 14 before Smithrecovered the Green Terror’s seventh fumble of the season.

After a McDaniel three-and-out, Juniata took over at the Green Terror 42 and drove 33 yards before Andrew Masullo hit a 26-yard field goal from the left hash to draw the hosts within 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.

On their first possession of the second half, the Eagles faced third-and-5 deep in their own end, Leonard hit Curry on a crossing route at his own 25. After Curry turned upfield, Stephen Cohn threw a block on a McDaniel defender that sprung his teammate for another 25 yards, turning the play into a 47-yard gain and setting Juniata up with a first down on the Green Terror 39.

Facing a fourth-and-7 at the McDaniel 24, Leonard found Chad Steiner for a 16-yard gain, setting up first and goal at the eight-yard line.

Three plays later, Masullo set up for a second 26-yard field goal attempt – this time from the right hash – and split the uprights to pull the hosts within 7-6.

In addition to a 339-192 difference in total offense, the Eagles also held a nearly 17-minute advantage in time of possession and a 22-5 edge in first downs.Mike Weick (Holland, Pa./Penn Charter) finished with a career best in tackles for the second straight week, making 18 stops. Aaron Slaughter (Baltimore, Md./Loyola) added a career-high 15 tackles and an interception while Ryan Blaser (Gaithersburg, Md./Einstein) also reached a career high with nine stops. Wenrich had seven stops, an interception and pass breakup.

After the week off next Saturday, the Green Terror returns to action at home against No. 5 Muhlenberg on Oct. 18. Game time is 1 p.m.