RENOVO - David Brantley delivered the first big blow in East Juniata's opening-night tangle against former All-American Football Conference foe Bucktail.
A 65-yard dash by Brantley up the middle of the field took the Tigers down to the Bucktail 3-yard line, before Tyler Herbster lit up the scoreboard for the first time with a two-yard run. East Juniata found the end zone plenty after that, rolling to a 35-7 non-league win over the Bucks.
A valiant first half from the team that the Tigers beat to start the campaign a year ago unraveled rather quickly after the two had battled through the first 24 minutes of play. Bucktail hit a wall that engulfed the Bucks as the teams headed to a very different second half, one that would be owned by the visitors.
Each team's defense held the others in check for the first 10 offensive series.
Herbster's rushing touchdown was followed by another just minutes later when Tiger quarterback Josh Zimmerman found Kevin Allen for a 26-yard touchdown pass, setting up the halftime 14-0 score.
For the Bucks, things were only about to get worse.
Junior Aaron Ransdorf was the workhorse for Bucktail in the first half, carrying the ball 13 times for 52 yards. On Ransdorf's first carry of the second half, he cramped up and would not return to the game.
In fact, by the time the Bucks had run just six offensive plays in the second half, East Juniata rolled to a 28-0 score.
Seven Bucktail players entered the game playing both offense and defense and combined with the humidity of the late August night, cramps became a constant. Ironically, Bucktail senior quarterback Trent Risley who also plays linebacker, returns kicks and is the teams' punter, was the only Buck not to miss an accumulation of plays.
The play of the Bucks felt the effects of the meltdowns, as after just one fumble in the first half, Bucktail committed two more fumbles and threw an interception in the second half.
Bucktail did threaten twice on long drives. The first drive found the Bucks just 3 yards out of the end zone early in the second quarter with the score still tied at 0-0. But Bucktail back Brad Kile, who had 64 yards on seven carries in the first half, fumbled near the goal line and the ball went out of the back of the end zone, resulting in a touchback.
Down 28-0 in the fourth quarter, the Bucks rode four Risley sweeps for 89 yards all the way down to a first-and-goal situation. Again a fumble would end the threat and keep the Bucks off of the scoreboard.
After the Tigers scored with just 37 seconds left in the game and stretched their lead to 35-0, Risley finally hit pay dirt. Risley took a kickoff near the center of the field on the 7-yard line and after hitting the right side line was off for a 93 yard return.
East Juniata (1-0) plays its home and Tri-Valley League opener Sept. 6 against Halifax in Beaver Springs.