Newport takes advantage, controls Tigers

BEAVER SPRINGS – Newport took Friday’s opening kickoff and methodically moved the ball 80 yards, using 17 plays and chewing up more than half the first quarter.

And the Buffaloes were just getting started.

East Juniata had a shorter – in distance and time – drive to open the second half, playing like a team intent on overcoming a poor first half to try to pick up another Tri-Valley League football win.

Instead, the football gods played more cruel tricks on the Tigers, as Newport came out on top, 42-14.

The score was tied late in the first, after Justin Temple – making his first appearance as quarterback for Newport – darted across the goal line from the 2 to end the first campaign, then David Brantley – who took most of the snaps early for East Juniata – went up the middle on a keeper and 24 yards to score.

There were good highlights for the Tigers – they broke up several Newport passes – but a few of those should have been interceptions, and at least one of the defensive drops was a likely touchdown if the ball had been held on to. As the quarter changed, East Juniata coughed up the first of two fumbles; Brantley stole it back with an interception on the Buffaloes’ first play of the ensuing drive.

“We played the entire first half with the same person at quarterback who fumbled it,” East Juniata coach Simon Cameron said, lamenting the dropped balls that were not difficult to play. And he said it had nothing to do with changes in the backfield forced by last week’s loss of starting quarterback Josh Zimmerman.

“These kids were prepared – I made sure we had three guys who could play quarterback,” he said.

All that led to traded punts and a turnover on downs; Newport got the last laugh on a zippy drive – 72 yards on five plays in fewer than 90 seconds – that ended with a Brian Auxt touchdown run that was the final score before halftime only because the Tiger defense was able to stop Auxt a minute and a half later when he was knocking at the door again.

The second half opened with the Tigers making a statement, as Brantley used a 40-yard scamper to set up his own touchdown pass to Kevin Allen from six yards out; barely three minutes into the new stanza it was a one-touchdown game.

The Buffaloes almost got it right back; Mason Arbogast took the East Juniata kickoff 44 yards to the Tiger 34 to start the visitors’ next possession. A fumble here, a fumble there and the Buffaloes were back in business near that spot, and Arbogast did nearly all the work in a 31-yard drive that gave Newport a 28-14 lead.

Keeping possession was a problem for the Tigers, who turned it over twice on three fumbles and gave up an interception, although Newport had one of each giveaway. East Juniata moved downfield as the clock was expiring on the third quarter, but was seemingly in good position to stay with the Buffaloes.

But a first-down snap as time expired became a mass of confusion, as both teams went to the sideline, assuming a procedure penalty called against the Tigers would be assessed at the start of the fourth quarter. Instead, the officials called the teams back for a no-time play – and then flagged East Juniata again for delay of game.

To add insult to injury, Cameron failed to get a timeout he was trying to call, and after a loss on the play that took place after time expired, the Tigers moved from first-and-10 at Newport’s 24 to second-and-31 near midfield.

“When we got the delay of game, I didn’t realize it – it was my fault. We thought it was the quarter,” Cameron said. “That was a really extremely strange play.”

What angered him was the rush to snap as the fourth quarter began that led to another turnover.

“I called a timeout because the (back judge) had his hand up. I called the timeout a good second, second and a half before that ball was snapped,” the coach recounted. “He said, ‘Oh, I heard it but it wasn’t quick enough.’ He said there was too much background noise.”

It was an Arbogast pick that ended the effort; the Buffaloes scored three plays later. The final touchdown, an almost unnecessary punch in the collective East Juniata stomach, came on a short pass with under a minute to to play after the Buffaloes had run seven minutes off the clock – literally, all running plays – but opted to throw on third down.

“We had our opportunities. We lost focus,” Cameron said. “The mental toughness wasn’t there.”

East Juniata (2-4, 1-4) travels to Line Mountain Oct. 11.