HOUTZDALE - After picking apart the Moshannon Valley defense for 131 yards on 8-of-15 passing in the first half of Friday night's game, Juniata Valley quarterback Caleb Taylor hit a little bit of a slump against a Black Knights defense that yielded 100 points in their last two contests.
Facing a 12-6 deficit late in the game, Taylor - who had a string of one completion in 11 attempts - saved his best for last.
The Green Hornet signalcaller snapped out of his funk to complete 3-of-4 passes on a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. The last of Taylor's completions was a 5-yard quick slant to Gordan Gable that tied the game at 12. Taylor booted the PAT with just over 16 seconds left to give his team a dramatic 13-12 win in a battle of teams needing a 'W' to keep playoff hopes alive.
Juniata Valley had a fourth-and-2 from the Mo Valley 32 with 26.6 seconds to go when Taylor connected with a wide open Aaron Maysonet on a 27-yard completion. The big play moved the Hornets to the five and Taylor connected with Gable two plays later.
"We've been throwing more the last couple of weeks," said Juniata Valley coach Mike Smith, "and Caleb is very capable of quarterbacking. The play before we scored isn't a play we usually run. We just sent (Maysonet) in motion and just told him to keep going because they'll forget about him and they did."
For Mo Valley, it was a defensive effort that coach Michael Keith had been waiting for.
After opening the season with a 42-7 win at West Branch, the Knights' defense allowed 134 points in losing three straight heading into Friday's game.
Mo Valley turned the Hornets away time after time before they marched 63 yards in just over two minutes for the game-winning score.
"We played and played and played," Keith said of his defense, which turned Juniata Valley away six of eight times that it crossed midfield, "but they just made one play there at the end. (Our defensive effort was) like night and day. We played until the last play tonight. I told the kids that I couldn't be more proud of them. We just didn't score enough points. We played well enough to win, but we just couldn't score enough points."
The Knights opened the scoring in the second quarter on a 4-yard scamper from Eric Sherkel, who ended the night with 111 yards on 22 carries. Taylor engineered an answer, though, and the teams went into the locker room knotted at 6.
Taylor, who finished the night with 174 yards, hit Gable for 37 yards to set up Jesse Claar's 2-yard plunge, and the Hornet defense held off a frantic last-second Mo Valley drive that saw Sherkel being ruled out inches shy of the goal line as time expired on the second quarter clock.
"It was a gut-wrenching game," Smith said. "We had some success doing stuff and then we stalled out, and it was the same with them. They were moving the ball and we held them a couple of times on fourth down. That touchdown right at the end of the first half was huge. They played very hard as well. It was a good high school football game."
The Knights also had a drive end with the first of Gable's two interceptions, as the Juniata Valley senior thwarted a Mo Valley series that saw it reach the Hornet 11.
Score By Quarters
Juniata Valley0 6 0 7 - 13
Moshannon Valley0 6 6 0- 12
MV - Sherkel 4 run (kick failed), 6:26.
JV - Claar 2 run (kick blocked), 3:30.
MV-Stewart 5 pass from Sherkel (pass failed), :35.8.
JV- Gable 5 pass from Taylor (Taylor kick), :16.8.
Rushing: Juniata Valley - Claar 21-103, Maysonet 8-48, Singer 1-(-2), Taylor 7-(-3), Wagner 3-(-5), Gable 1-(-10). Moshannon Valley - Sherkel 22-111, Thomas 16-60, Frailey 3-15.
Passing: Juniata Valley-Taylor 11-25-0-174; TEAM 0-1-0-0. Moshannon Valley -Sherkel 7-21-2-98.
Receiving: Juniata Valley - Gable 5-83, Claar 3-55, Maysonet 2-23, Gildea 1-13. Moshannon Valley - Stewart 5-68, Demko 1-20, Kitko 1-10.
Interceptions: Juniata Valley - Gable 2.
Total yards 305284