Juniata is one step closer to season goal

Indians defeat Bedford, 45-6

Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER Juniata’s Fletcher Hart (41) runs through Bedford defenders Dylan Arnold (9) and Cole Stickel (2) following a block by Juniata lineman Ryan Reynolds (79) Saturday in Mifflintown.

MIFFLINTOWN — Coming into the season, coach Gary Klingensmith’s Indians had one major goal in mind: a shot at redemption for last year’s District 6 Class 3A championship game loss to Central.

First, though, there was the business of dispatching an unknown Bedford team in Saturday night’s semifinals.

It became evident early on that the Indians would not let the visiting Bisons put an end to their year-long mission.

No. 2 seed Juniata rode some outstanding play from its seniors, especially quarterback Tyler Clark, running back Fletcher Hart and two-way tackle Josh Parson to a 45-6 shellacking of Bedford at Dietrick Field in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

Next up is the rematch with 11-0 Central at 7 p.m. Saturday in Altoona’s Mansion Park.

Bedford was coming off an upset win over Tyrone and seemed to have the momentum going into its district semifinal at Juniata.

Klingensmith said the big Bedford front line was a challenge, but it’s one like the Indians dealt with all season.

“The kids played their hearts out,” he said.

One of the few negatives in the win was the Indians’ problems with penalties as they were flagged eight times for 75 yards.

“We moved the ball real well but I was really disappointed in all the penalties we had,” Klingensmith said. “That kept us from busting the game wide open earlier, but our kids stayed in the fight.”

Hart had one touchdown called back along with a couple other big first-down runs, but kept plugging away to the tune of 110 yards on the ground and 71 more in the air.

“I knew we just had to run hard, block hard, do everything right and I knew we could win,” Hart said.

The Bisons’ defense came up with a big stop in the red zone to make the Indians settle for a field goal on the opening series of the game.

After that, the Indians’ playmakers simply made more big plays than Bedford.

The Bisons (7-6) only stopped the Indians (8-3) twice in the first half, not counting a kneel-down on the last play.

The Bisons lost three fumbles, including one in the first half that led to the Indians’ second score. Moore got two of them and R.J. Becker had the other. Hart also had several pass break-ups.

After the 37-yard Noah Burns field goal, Juniata forced a three-and-out, sparked by a three-yard tackle for loss by tackle Josh Parson, then took advantage of a short punt, giving Juniata the ball at the Bedford 39.

Juniata scored on an eight-play drive capped by Tyler Clark’s 16-yard pass to his brother, Bryson, to make it 10-0 with 5:02 left in a wild first quarter.

Moore recovered a Bisons’ fumble on a bad snap on the next series and Juniata made them pay as Tyler Clark connected twice with Spencer Page, the second an 18-yard TD on which Page broke several tackles en route to the end zone.

“That was definitely a key for us, any turnover is definitely a key, because we get a lot of momentum out of those, and we ended up scoring,” Parson said.

Junior Zac Piper, a 5-foot-3, 132-pound running back, zig-zagged his way to an eight-yard TD that probably covered 50 yards to give the Indians a 24-0 halftime advantage. The diminutive Piper was all over the field on defense as well, making tackles for loss and pressuring the quarterback.

“He’s our secret weapon. He’s like an atomic bomb,” Klingensmith . “People look at him and think he’s a pushover, but he’s like a Mighty Mouse.”

Bedford found a spark to open the second half as speedy junior quarterback Davis Kline directed an eight-play, 55-yard scoring drive, capped by a four-yard run on the option to make it 24-6 with 9:28 left in the third. A conversion run failed.

That was one of the few times all night that the Bisons were successful with their option game, which had baffled some other opponents this season.

Hart said, “We knew they had speed, we just let it up to the coaches to call the right plays and then we played tough.”

The 6-2, 258-pound Parson, who also knocked down a Kline pass at the line, said, “Our key was to key the quarterback. We knew he was a big runner so we keyed on him a lot and we figured our ends could cover the pitch, so we held them off pretty good.”

That’s an understatement. The Indians held Kline to just five net yards rushing on 14 carries and 152 yards passing.

“I was a little nervous coming in because we didn’t know what they had, but we came out strong and we wanted to get that last ‘W’ on this field,'” Parson added.

The Bisons kept the momentum going in the second half when, after the Kline TD, the defense got a three-and-out but Juniata forced another turnover, a fumble recovered by R.J. Becker on a snap that Kline had to chase down several yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Five plays later, Page scored to make it 31-6 with 3:31 left in the third.

A Clark 19-yard TD pass to Hart and a 10-yard TD run by Ethan Grove completed the scoring.

Hart said his teammates did a great job of blocking.

“Their defensive line was pretty big and they handled them. They were bigger than us but I think we out-quicked them and out-strengthened them,” Hart said.

“They were a better team, a quality team. Hats off to them,” Bedford coach Kevin Steele said.

Now it’s the rematch.

“We’re all pumped up to get (Central) again and I think we’re going to come out and play hard and give it all we got,” Parson said.

“Central has great quickness, but we love a rematch,” Klingesmith said. “They’re a great football game and it will be a great challenge, but this was one of our goals. If we beat them, then we’ll know we’re a pretty good team.”