Turnovers prove costly for Valley
MORRISDALE – Missing in action for most of the season, the Juniata Valley High School football team’s offense made an appearance on Friday night at L.T. Drivas Field.
Unfortunately, in the spirit of the holidays coming up over the next few months, the Green Hornets also were in a giving mood.
Valley turned in its best scoring outing of the season. However, four turnovers undid much of the good the Green Hornets accomplished and sent them home with a 36-28 Inter-County Conference interdivisional loss against West Branch.
The Hornets dropped to 1-8. It was their second straight loss by eight points or fewer.
“The positives are that we’re stopping ourselves. The other team isn’t stopping us. Turnovers and penalties, that’s the things that are stopping us,” said Juniata Valley coach Bill Musser, whose team now has 31 turnovers this season. “I sound like a broken record. We work on these things every day at practice. But it’s the honest truth.”
The Hornets fumbled the ball nine times, losing four of them. West Branch cashed in on two of them with touchdowns. The last, coming on a sack of Sam Singer that was recovered by the Warriors’ Jimmy Pilosky deep in the Hornets’ end in the final minute, snuffed out Juniata Valley’s last chance to possibly force overtime.
Juniata Valley twice battled back. First it came back from down 14-0 in the first quarter to tie it with a lengthy drive to open the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Hornets climbed out of a 22-point hole on a Singer 17-yard pass to Aaron Maysonet and then Singer’s 15-yard bootleg just 25 seconds later after the Hornets successfully executed an onside kick to get with eight with 6:03 to play.
Juniata Valley’s point total actually exceeded that of its previous five games combined, in which the Hornets scored 21 points. Valley’s previous season-high was 18 points, scored both in a week 1 loss to Southern Huntingdon and a week 3 win over Claysburg-Kimmel.
Valley also eclipsed the 200-yard mark for the first time since beating Claysburg.
“They are responding,” Musser said of his players. “They haven’t quit yet, and they’re working extremely hard.”
The Hornets pulled out all the stops, even going for it on fourth-and-17 on their first possession from the Warrior 42. The try backfired, as Singer was tackled for a 9-yard loss – West Branch methodically drove the rest of the way for the game’s first score, a 10-yard touchdown run by Kris Smeal.
“We’ve been trying to be aggressive all year long,” Musser said of the decision. “That was an opportunity for us to try to be aggressive and, as a coaching staff, to show the kids we’re going to try to match their effort, as well.”
Smeal was a force all evening. The bowling ball-like senior rushed for 246 of West Branch’s 348 yards on the ground, scoring three touchdowns. He surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season and the 100-yard mark for the game in the first half and needs about 50 yards next week against archrival Moshannon Valley for 3,000 in his career.
“It felt amazing. I can’t say enough about our offensive line and our other running backs,” Smeal said. “This was really important. It will help boost our confidence for the last game.”
It was West Branch’s second win in nine starts and snapped a seven-game losing streak.
“We talk to the kids all the time about staying the course, doing your work, working hard, keeping your nose in and good things will happen,” Warriors coach Lester Smeal said. “Tonight, we executed.”
Game notes: West Branch was holding senior night and a pink-out. … Noah Hess topped Hornet rushers with 66 yards on the ground, and Kellen Glenny had three receptions for 71 yards, including a 36-yarder to set up Hess’s 3-yard scoring run in the final minute of the first half after Singer intercepted a pass. Valley ends the season next Friday when it hosts Huntingdon.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Juniata Valley 0 6 8 14 – 28
West Branch14 0 14 8 – 36
WB-Smeal 10 run (run failed), 3:31.
WB-Coble 40 run (Smeal run), 2:36.
JV-Hess 3 run (run failed), 0:32.
JV-Singer 1 run (Hess run), 7:07.
WB-Williams 1 run (Smeal run), 6:12.
WB-Smeal 6 run (pass failed), 0:07.
WB-Smeal 1 run (Smeal run), 10:57.
JV-A. Maysonet 17 pass from Singer (Shook pass from Singer), 6:28.
JV-Singer 15 run (kick failed), 6:03.
RUSHING: Juniata Valley-Hess 15-66, A. Maysonet 13-24, Singer 12-6, Harker 5-11, Glenny 1-4. West Branch-Smeal 30-246, Coble 9-87, Williams 10-16, TEAM 1-(-1).
PASSING: Juniata Valley-Singer 5-9-0-91. West Branch-Williams 2-7-1-38.
RECEIVING: Juniata Valley-Glenny 3-71, A. Maysonet 1-17, Hensor 1-3. West Branch-Myers 1-28, Coble 1-10.
INTERCEPTIONS: Juniata Valley-Singer. West Branch-none.