Football Holds off Ursinus, 21-17

Aaron O'Brien caught a season-high seven passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns against Ursinus.
Aaron O'Brien caught a season-high seven passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns against Ursinus.

COLLEGEVILLE, Pa.- Nick Bonavita's (Sheffield, Pa./Sheffield Area HS) interception with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter stopped an Ursinus threat and secured a 21-17 win for Juniata on Saturday afternoon at Patterson Field. The win, which ends a four-game winless streak for the Eagles, puts their record at 2-4 overall and 1-4 in the Centennial Conference. The Bears also are 2-4 and 1-4 in the conference.


The game had the makings of a shootout in the first half as the two teams combined for five touchdowns. After the Eagles were stopped on their opening drive, UC responded with a seven-play 45 yard drive that ended with James Emmett's one-yard touchdown run to put the Bears ahead 7-0 with 11:20 left on the clock in the first quarter.


The teams exchanged punts back and forth in the opening frame. The Eagles had the ball with one minute remaining on the Bear 33 after a 32 yard punt return by Kirby Breault (Elizabethtown, Pa./Elizabethtown Area HS). On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Hank Coyne (Royersford, Pa./Spring-Ford HS) connected with Aaron O'Brien (York, Pa./York Catholic) for the touchdown and with Kevin Bonalle's (Lebanon, Pa./Cedar Crest) extra point, the game was tied 7-7.


In the second quarter, the Eagle defense forced Ursinus to punt. Juniata moved the ball downfield as Coyne completed passes to Hunter Phillips (Funkstown, Pa./South Hagerstown HS) for 12 yards, Breault for 11, and finally O'Brien for 24 to get inside Ursinus territory. A DaVon Mitchell (Schwenksville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) run put the ball at the UC 36. The drive ended when Coyne was picked off by the Bears' Tim Rafter at the 10-yard line and the return went 32 yards, but Breault forced Rafter to fumble and the ball was recovered by Matt Lehr (Dover, Pa./York Catholic) at the UC 42.


With a big break, the Eagles made sure that they didn't give up a good scoring opportunity. Lehr ran for 46 yards on four plays that ended with his four-yard touchdown and with the Bonalle extra point, JC was ahead 14-7 with just over five minutes to play in the quarter.


The Bears responded quickly. Emmett completed passes of five yards to Nick Lundholm and 45 yards to Matt Raymond to make it first and goal at the JC 7. Two plays later, Cory Raymond scored from six yards out to tie it all up at 14-all at 2:33.


The Eagles had enough time to put together a scoring drive. Coyne completed two passes to both O"Brien and Breault to get down to the UC 3. Lehr rushed for two yards and then was stopped for no gain, which forced the Eagles to call timeout with 13 ticks on the game clock. On third and goal, Lehr ran it in for the touchdown and with Bonalle's extra point it was 21-14 Juniata at halftime.


The Bears began with the ball in the third quarter. Ursinus got down to the JC 13 but the Eagles came up with a big stop. Eric Boyer's field goal from 28 yards out was good and the score was now 21-17.


In the beginning of the fourth period, Breault was brought down for a loss of five yards but fumbled which allowed Ursinus to recover at the JC 19. The Bears looked primed to take the lead but again the defense came up big with a loss for two yards and two incompletions. Boyer missed on his 27-yard field goal attempt and the score remained 21-17 in Juniata's favor.


With 3:22 remaining to play, Ursinus had a final shot to go ahead. With time ticking down, the Bears moved into Juniata territory. UC had a first and goal at the 20. Emmett was sacked for a loss of three yards by Luke Navin (Bel-Air, Md./John Carroll HS). A false start penalty brought the ball back to the 29. From there. Emmett's pass was picked off by Bonavita, who ran seven yards to the Juniata 22 and the game was sealed.


Coyne completed 16 out of 31 passes for 218 yards and threw two touchdown passes. O'Brien caught a season-high seven passes for 129 yards and both scores. Breault added three grabs for 47 yards. Phillips snagged four balls for 37 yards.


The Eagles gained 114 net rushing yards led by Lehr's 80 yards on 19 attempts. Breault added 23 yards on six rushes.


Juniata converted 6-of-13 (46%) of its third down attempts. The Bears were not as effective with a 2-of-13 (15%) conversion rate.


The defense totaled four sacks and had seven tackles for losses. Donovan Cobb (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa) led in tackles with six and picked up a sack. Mitchell Shober (Stevens, Pa./Cocalico) and Demetrius Floyd (Coraopolis, Pa./West Allegheny) chipped in five tackles each with Shober also breaking up two passes.


Juniata returns to the friendly confines of Knox Stadium next Saturday when it host Muhlenberg. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m.