Claysburg - Friday night's Juniata Valley/Claysburg-Kimmel game will not soon be forgotten by either side.
Juniata Valley overcame a 16-point deficit in the final 15 minutes of play for a thrilling 51-44 win at Bulldog Stadium.
"It's definitely the wildest game I've seen in my life. Unbelievable," Juniata Valley coach Mike Smith said. "We could have packed it in a number of different times, but the heart these kids showed in the second half was just incredible."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Juniata Valley’s Aaron Maysonet (left) tries to get a hand on Claysburg-Kimmel’s Zach Helsel.
As exhilarating as the win was for the Green Hornets, it was just as heartbreaking for Claysburg.
Zach Helsel scored six touchdowns as the Bulldogs built a 44-28 with three minutes left in the third quarter before Juniata Valley stormed back with a three fourth-quarter touchdowns to remain undefeated at 3-0. Claysburg falls to 1-2.
"This is a tough one to lose, a tough one to swallow," Claysburg coach Joe Kitt said. "High school football's all about momentum. They grabbed it late in the third and kept it throughout the fourth."
The Juniata Valley defense played dramatically better after Helsel's final touchdown, holding Claysburg to just one first down the rest of the way.
"I knew we were in trouble when we were running the same plays we ran in the first half and couldn't move the ball," Kitt said.
After Jesse Claar and Brett Grissinger each had touchdown runs earlier in the quarter, Claar scored the game-winner on a 10-yard run with just 25 seconds left in the game.
Two of the top rushers in the area, Claar and Grissinger both went over 100 yards and scored three touchdowns apiece.
Claar had 120 yards on 22 carries, and Grissinger ran for 135 yards on 18 carries.
Grissinger also caught five passes for another 90 yards and had two punt returns of 20-plus yards in the fourth quarter that help set up two Hornet touchdowns.
"We went with a little no huddle in the third quarter. That seemed to spark us a little, and our defense started holding," Smith said. "This teaches the kids a good lesson not only in football but in life as well. When you're down, keep chugging away and good things will happen."
Helsel finished the game with 165 yards on 24 carries. The senior running back had four touchdowns rushing, one receiving and another on an interception return.
"It's no secret we're going to get him the ball as much as we can. He's a heck of kid who had a heck of a game. Everybody did a good job out there," Kitt said.
Claysburg looked like it would go to halftime up 31-14 when Helsel returned an interception 53 yards for the score with 15 seconds left, but Juniata Valley immediately got that touchdown right back when Caleb Taylor completed a long pass to Grissinger for a 58-yard score on the final play of the half.
Defensive back Josh Brown had good position on the play and looked like he was going to intercept the pass, but it bounced off his hands right into Grissinger's, who quickly raced into the end zone to make it a 31-21 game at the break.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Juniata Valley7 14 7 23 - 51
Claysburg-Kimmel6 25 13 0 - 44
JV-Grissinger 2 run (Staber kick), 3:51.
CK-Repko 23 pass from Claar (kick failed), 1:50.
CK-Helsel 40 run (pass failed), 10:50.
JV-Gardner 27 pass from Taylor (Staber kick), 7:30
CK-Helsel 4 run (pass failed), 5:49
CK-Helsel 2 run (run failed), 1:11.
CK-Helsel 53 interception return, :15.
JV-Grissinger 58 pass from Taylor (Staber kick), :00
CK-Helsel 62 pass from Claar (Fickes kick), 7:10.
JV-Claar 5 run (Staber kick), 4:36.
CK-Helsel 15 run (kick failed), 3:19.
JV-Claar 3 run (Taylor run), 11:13.
JV-Grissinger 13 run (Claar run), 8:46.
JV-Claar 10 run (Staber kick), :25.
RUSHING: Juniata Valley-Claar 22-120, Grissinger 18-135, Taylor 8-62, Wagner 3-11, TEAM 1-(-2). Claysburg-Kimmel-Helsel 24-165, Pant 2-18, Claar 4-(-6), Repko 1-1.
PASSING: Juniata Valley-Taylor 8-16-2-163. Claysburg-Kimmel-Claar 5-13-2-140.
RECEIVING: Juniata Valley-Grissinger 5-90, Gardner 2-53, Wagner 1-20. Claysburg-Kimmel-Repko 1-23, Cerully 2-39, Weyandt 1-16, Helsel 1-62.
INTERCEPTIONS: Juniata Valley-Low 2. Claysburg-Kimmel-Helsel, Imgrund.