Valley feeling good about 2020 fall
The Mirror will preview a high school football team each day until Aug. 22. For a complete rundown of all of the teams in the region, pick up a copy of “Blitz” at area newstands.
Today: Juniata Valley
Thursday: Moshannon Valley
Juniata Valley has won 21 games the past two seasons and achieved that with two very different rosters.
The 2018 team featured male Altoona Mirror Athlete of the Year Quinn Zinobile at quarterback with stars like Kyle Derugen at wide receiver and Jaxson Rand at running back.
Last year, the Green Hornets did it with players like Caden Rupert, Ryann Betres and Grant Musser.
Now, Juniata Valley is ready to reload again.
“It’s always a challenge, but that’s what makes coaching fun,” Juniata Valley coach Bill Musser said. “Year to year, you have new groups of kids coming in, but the one thing I’m blessed with here at Juniata Valley is great assistant coaches that have that same desire and focus that I have. We’re also blessed with kids who want to be successful.”
Grant Musser was a significant part of the 2018 team before improving even more his senior season, but players like Rupert and Betres saw limited action prior to becoming a huge part of the team’s success last season.
Coach Musser said he sees a few more players who might not have made a name for themselves yet doing so this year.
“We have between 26 and 30 kids show up at our workouts on a regular basis, so there’s a significant number of kids we’re expecting a lot from,” Musser said. “There are a few I think are really poised to make a big difference like Jake Johnson, Bryant Allison, Jayce Rand and Ben Carolus, those four are guys I see taking big steps.”
One of the players expected to take on a much larger role is senior Hunter Johnson.
“We all have confidence and want to fill the shoes of players from previous years,” Johnson said. “Players have come in here and made an impact, and we want to keep that going. We have the confidence to be a great team and go really far.”
The Green Hornets made it to the District 6 Class 1A semifinals last year and won 10 games after winning the title in 2018.
Juniata Valley was competitive against eventual PIAA runner-up Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic in the semifinal game and had played Inter-County Conference champion Bellwood-Antis down to the wire on the road earlier in the season.
“We want to be competitive week in and week out,” Musser said. “We want to be a team that other teams look at and know when we come to town, they better be ready to play football. That’s our goal. If we continue to do that, we feel like we can play with anybody whenever or wherever.”
One of the keys in those competitive games may be senior placekicker Jefferson Hill, one of the more reliable kickers in the area.
“Jefferson has really embraced the idea that kicking and being a kicker is an important part of the team, and he’s really important to our team,” Musser said. “He even wants to be more than that. He’s worked extremely hard on being a wide receiver and a defensive back.”
Juniata Valley will also have to replace star lineman Elliott Showalter, a key to both the 2018 and 2019 teams.
“As a team, I think we’ll show out like usual,” Juniata Valley senior lineman Dalton Dixon said. “The way things have been going, everyone has been putting in the work. We know we can make it far, and that’s what we’re going to try and make happen.
“I think if we play the way we can play and play to our top potential, we can beat anybody.”