MOUNT UNION - Resiliency and determination in the face of adversity can create magic for a football team. No one knows this better than head coach Dayton Shugarts and his Mount Union Trojans.
For the second week in a row, Mount Union had to battle back and claw its way to victory. After coming from behind to beat Huntingdon in overtime last week, the Trojans found themselves down 13-0 to Juniata Valley in their home opener Friday night.
After a listless and lackluster first half - a half where Mount Union mustered only 16 yards of offense - the Trojans rallied with 16 unanswered points in the second half to pull out the 16-13 victory over the Hornets and their stunned, silent fans.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Mount Union’s Dylan Smith (21) runs for a first down with blocks by Adam Rigney, center, and Brody Suter against Juniata Valley Friday in Mount Union.
"We made zero adjustments in the second half. We simply told our kids you have to do what we know you can do and do it right," Shugarts said. "I have no clue what happened, really. In the first half, we weren't even in the game. The second half we didn't do anything different, we just executed better.
"I said very little to them at halftime. I just said that we can do it. Our kids just came out and rose to the occasion. This is unbelievable, to do this two weeks in a row. I saw my cardiologist a couple months ago and he said I had the heart of a 40-year old. I'll tell you what; these kids are testing it big time."
Mount Union, now 2-0 on the season, began its comeback with a 5-play, 47-yard drive that was capped by an 18-yard toss from Trevon Walker to Kole House on the slant play. A 21-yard run by Darrian Stapleton and a 14-yard catch by Klayton Heffner keyed the drive. Dylan Smith's PAT made it 13-7 with 4:59 left in the third.
Mount Union travels to Southern Huntingdon on Sept. 13
"That was big getting the score in the third quarter. It seemed to jump-start us. I really believe the comeback we made last week against Huntingdon made these kids believe in themselves now," Shugarts said. "I really think they do believe that they can do it. I've been involved with a lot of teams in my time, but I've never been involved with one who can come back like this.
"I think we wore them down in the second half conditioning wise. I can't say that for a fact, but I think we just took the heart out of them. These kids just don't give up. It's old-fashioned Mount Union football."
The momentum completely swung the Trojans' way after Smith broke through the Juniata Valley offensive line untouched and stopped Aaron Maysonet in the end zone for the safety, cutting the Hornet lead to 13-9 with 10:16 left in regulation.
Juniata Valley (1-1) played the rest of the game on its heels, trying to preserve a lead instead of playing to win. The results were predictable.
After exchanging punts, the Trojans mounted their go-ahead scoring drive, a drive that took only four plays to reach paydirt, with 6:14 on the clock.
Stapleton ran for nine yards and Loner scampered for four yards on a reverse for a first down at the Hornets' 28. On second-and-10, Walker found Loner in the back of the end zone with the junior receiver out-leaping the defender to come down with the grab and the score to give Mount Union a lead it would never surrender.
"Loner came up with a great catch, but the good thing is it isn't just one player coming through. It's a total team effort," said Shugarts said. "We just have to keep doing what we're doing and take each game one at a time."
Juniata Valley dominated the first half, out-gaining the Trojans 187-16. In the second half, the Hornets were out-gunned 176-33.
Jesse Claar scored from four-yards out and Caleb Taylor connected with Gordon Gable on a three-yard TD pass to give Juniata Valley the early 13-0 advantage.
Mount Union travels to Southern Huntingdon next.
"We won't take Southern lightly. It's a typical backyard battle. We need to be ready to play a solid game for four quarters," Shugarts said.