HALIFAX - The Juniata football team did something Friday night it doesn't do very often - it scored on the passing play.
More than once.
Of the Indians' six touchdowns in their 38-14 win over Tri-Valley League opponent Halifax, two were scored in the air on passes from freshman quarterback Cole Kellison.
"Kellison had a few nice touchdown passes there. He's only a ninth grade boy, so he steps up there and makes those passes. He's a smooth operator. I'm proud of him," Juniata coach Gary Klingensmith said.
And Klingensmith was right - Kellison did have a good game. After Juniata jumped on the lead early in the game with a huge 81 yard run from senior Neil Bodley, Kellison connected with Andrew Boyer with just 32 seconds left in the first quarter to put the Indians up 13-0.
In the next quarter, Halifax would manage to put together one scoring drive, but the Indians outpaced them by scoring 13 of their own, one of which was a pass from Kellison to Chad Eberle, making the score 26-7 going into the half.
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* Juniata hosts Pine Grove Nov. 2
But if Juniata's offense was clipping away, the defense was putting up a strong front too. Both teams were almost equal in offensive yardage going into the half, but whereas Halifax's defense had given up four touchdowns by that point, Juniata had only given up one.
One notable Juniata defensive player of the first half was Derek Beitz, a newcomer to the sport. On two separate occasions in the first half Halifax's Allan Kauffman, who ran for a total of 176 yard in the game, broke through Juniata's defensive line and was about to make a breakaway for the end zone, but Beitz was there both times to make the tackle and prevent Kaufman from scoring.
In the third quarter, Juniata would score two more times before completing its offensive output for the night. The first was an 11-yard run from Bodley, and the second was a score by Scott Sneath, who from 20 yards out broke right through Halifax's line, and took it into the end zone for the Indians.
"I'm real proud of our kids. They came out an played a good game," Klingensmith said.
Halifax played a good game too, of sorts. Although the Wildcats had more total yardage than the Indians, they weren't able to connect with the scoring as often, and only found the end zone twice. At one point in the fourth quarter Halifax had the ball on Juniata's four yard line, but the Indians held fast and forced Halifax to lose the ball on downs.
It was defense like this that was a hallmark of the game. Both teams are known for running the ball, and each defense prepared accordingly.
"We'd be better to go on the road than go in the air when we can get it, but they were really jamming up on us," Klingensmith said, explaining why the passing play turned out to be a good option for the Indians. Of course, he also credited his kids for having a good running game too.
Bodley was responsible for most of that, logging 195 yards on 21 carries, good for about two thirds of the team's offense on half the touches of the ball. After the long TD in the opening stanza, he added one more in the second and another in the third.
Juniata (5-4, 4-4) will be looking at the scoreboard today to see where it stands in the District 6 Class AA points race. Currently in eighth - the final spot in the playoff bracket - the Indians could be guaranteed a berth if Westmont-Hilltop upsets Penn Cambria today. If Penn Cambria wins that one, Juniata will need a win - and still will need some help - in the final week, when they host Pine Grove.
Penn Cambria's schedule, which includes more larger schools, means the Panthers could knock Juniata out of the running with two wins to close out, regardless of Juniata's performance.
Klingensmith, however, remains optimistic - and wants a little bit of insurance with a win against the Cardinals.
"Hopefully we get one more, and I think for sure we're in the playoffs," Klingensmith said.