By Matt Michelone
ALEXANDRIA — You couldn’t have scripted a better No. 3 seed Juniata Valley as it begins its District 6 Class 1A quarterfinal match against No. 6 Penns Manor with a 45-yard pass from Jett Rand to Luke Uplinger.
However, that first drive fizzled four plays later, and the Comets continued to lead with a 26-yard run by Brayden Pytash on the ensuing drive.
In the second quarter, the Comets’ offense got short fields, taking advantage of the Green Hornets’ short shots, and the problems continued to mount from there.
The Comets’ passing game proved too much for the Hornets as they piled up an astounding 401 yards on 65 carries while pulling off a 34-14 upset at AR Simkins Memorial Field.
Much of that damage came at the hands of Carter Smith, who recorded 162 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns.
“The kids came out, played hard, had the right attitude,” Juniata Valley coach Bill Musser said. “We came out in the second half, I thought we played hard. I thought little kids see what they can do when they put their minds to it.”
The Hornets’ passing game had to carry a heavy load for an offense that struggled to find a rhythm in the first half.
“They were telling us if we were going to have success, we were going to have to put the ball in the air,” Musser said, “We took advantage of some situations where we had those openings, we had those spots.”
Play of the game: Smith’s 26-yard touchdown run to complete the first drive of the second half helped decide the game.
Player of the game: Smith
Unsung heroes: The Comet offensive line that helped Brayden Pytash go 16 for a 94-yard day on the ground and the Comet defensive line that created havoc all night for the Hornet run game.
Most important stat: The Comets recorded 401 yards on the ground on 65 total carries.
Penns Manor coach Bill Packer: “Our offense played well tonight. A couple we should have had sooner but didn’t. Overall, I’m really pleased. Our line created some really nice holes and our backs came down hard. There are times where those guys make big blocks for Carter, and Carter makes blocks for (his teammates) at the rim. They work off each other and do a great job.”
Musser: “I’ve said it all year, we’ve got to get physically mature, we’ve got to get mentally mature and believe it or not the last couple of weeks, I think our younger kids have gotten mentally more mature and understand what we need to do , to become better in the future.”
Comet RB/LB Smith: “We’re a mentally tough football team. These are the good football teams. We give up a game and go back. We struggled a bit in the first half this season, but we kept getting better and now it’s working for us. Getting control quickly definitely helped us.”
Notable: Penns Manor had 10 first downs to Juniata Valley’s four in the first half. … No Hornet had more than 22 yards on the ground. … Jett Rand finished the night completing 16 of 32 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns … Both teams committed seven total penalties for 50 yards.
Records: Penns Manor (6-5), Juniata Valley (7-4)
Next week: Penns Manor will travel to Purchase Line next Friday in the District 6 Class 1A semifinals. Juniata Valley’s season is over.
Penns Manor 8 12 14 0 – 34
Uniata Valley 0 0 8 6 – 14
PM–Pytash 26 run (Smith run), 9:15.
PM–Pytash 7 run (pass failed), 8:47.
PM–Smith 58 run (run failed), 3:47.
PM–Smith 26 run (Smith pass from Lieb), 8:13.
JV–Weirich 4 pass from Rand (Clark pass from Rand), 7:13.
PM–Leasure 8 run (run failed), 1:24.
JV–Norris 12 pass from and (pass failed), 5:13.
TEAM STATISTICS PM JV
First downs 17 9
Total yards 407,215
Rushing yards 65-401 16-27
Passing yards 6,188
Pitching (comp.-att.-int.) 1-2-0 16-33-2
points-avg. 3-30 5-27.4
Fumbles-Loss 3-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 4-35 3-15
RUSHING–Penns Manor, Leasure 17-85, Smith 17-162, Pytash 16-94, Williams 6-22, Lieb 6-17, Snyder 4-22, Ford, 1-7, TEAM 1-(-1). Juniata Valley, Weirich 2-2, Clark 1-(-3), Uplinger 4-9, Prough 3-7, Brantner 1-1. Rand 2-(-11), Johnson 3-22.
PASSING – Penns Manor, Williams 1-2-0-6. Juniata Valley, Rand 16-32-2-188, Clark 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING – Penns Manor, Smith 1-6. Juniata Valley, Uplinger 2-57, Weirich 6-29, Prough 2-50, Clark 1-1, Norris 3-37, Brantner 1-14.