HUNTINGDON, Pa.- Max Cepeda scored on a 25-yard run on Muhlenberg's first possession of the second overtime as the Mules won a back and forth contest with Juniata 41-35 on Saturday afternoon at Knox Stadium. The Eagles had a chance to win in the final seconds of regulation but Kevin Bonalle's (Lebanon, Pa./Cedar Crest) field goal attempt was blocked.
The 35 points scored by Juniata are the most against a Muhlenberg squad in the 11-game series. The six-point differential is also the closest margin of victory between the two teams.
Receivers Kirby Breault (Elizabethtown, Pa/Elizabethtown Area) and Aaron O'Brien (York, Pa./York Catholic) combined for 19 catches, 258 yards, and five touchdowns. Hank Coyne (Royersford, Pa./Spring Ford) completed 28 out of 44 passes for 311 yards and tossed the five scores. He was only sacked once.
Both teams passed for over 300 yards. The two teams were nearly even in first downs (26 for Muhlenberg and 24 for Juniata) and time of possession favored the Mules 31:54 to 28:06. On third down conversions, the Mules were 8-of-16 while Junaita was 7-of-15. The Eagles did convert both of their fourth down opportunities while Muhlenberg was 1-of-3.
"I thought we made plays and put ourselves in a situation to win this football game and that is all you can ever ask for," said head coach Tim Launtz. "We had an opportunity to win this football game and we couldn't finish."
The first quarter showed no signs of what was to come as it was a scoreless tie. Juniata had possession to begin the game but on the first play from scrimmage, Coyne was picked off by Luke Wiley, who returned it 19 yards to the Juniata 45. The Muhlenberg drive ended on fourth a two from the Junaita 27 as Kweku Parker (York, Pa./Central York) brought down Mules quarterback Nick Palladino for a loss of two yards.
Both teams missed on field goals as Muhlenberg's Casey Fosbenner went wide right from 21 yards and Bonalle missed from 43 yards. After the JC missed attempt, Muhlenberg had the ball in their own territory to begin the second quarter. Palladino got the Mules past midfield but John Michael Maclay (Reedsville, Pa./Mifflin County) stepped in front of his first down throw and the Eagles got the ball back.
Juniata quickly moved downfield. Coyne was a perfect 6-for-6 and David Vidovic (Hohenfels, Germany/Hohenfels) and Matt Lehr (Dover, Pa./York Catholic) combined for 26 yards on the drive that ended with Coyne connecting with Breault for the six-yard score and the Eagles were ahead 6-0 with 9:33 to play in the second quarter.
The Mules responded with a 10-play 66 yard drive that concluded with Palladino connecting with Delaney for 15 yards and the score. With the extra point, Muhlenberg went up 7-6 with 4:16 showing on the game clock. That is where the score remained on halftime.
The Mules began the second half with possession. Starting at their own 20-yard line, the Mules quickly moved into JC territory. From the Juniata 21, Palladino hooked up with Delaney for the second time and with the extra point, Muhlenberg went up 14-6 with 11:49 in the third quarter.
The Eagles received excellent field position on the kickoff when Fosbenner's boot went out of bounds and Juniata started at their own 35. Two plays later, Coyne found O'Brien in the middle, who outran all defenders into the endzone for a 63-yard touchdown. Coyne then threw to Breault for the two-point conversion and the game was tied at 14-all at 11:04.
The Mules' next drive ended on a fourth and seven as Muhlenberg attempted a fake punt but the completion to John Feaster from Matt Aspinwall was short two yards and Juniata had terrific field position at the Mules' 29. Breault rushed for 18 yards to the Muhlenberg 11. Deonte Alston (Bel-Air, Md./Patterson Mill) was then brought down for a two-yard loss. On second and 13 from the Muhlenberg 14, Coyne threw to O'Brien for the score and Bonalle's extra point gave JC a 21-14 lead with exactly eight minutes left in the quarter.
Coyne would be picked off for the second time by Wiley with 1:45 to play in the frame. The Mules took full advantage of the opportunity granted them as Palladino threw a 34-yard touchdown to Nick Lamb and the extra point tied the ball game at 21-21 just seven seconds into the fourth quarter.
After an exchange of punts, JC had possession with 10 minutes to play. From its own 11, the Eagles picked up three first downs and converted a fourth and two from the Muhlenberg 36. On third and 11 from the Mules' 28, Coyne lofted a pass into the open arms of O'Brien and Bonalle's extra point gave JC a 28-21 lead with just under four and a half minutes to play in regulation.
The lead didn't last very long as Palladino passed to Mike Harris for a nine-yard score with 3:11 to play to tie it up at 28-all. The Eagles started at their own 31 on the ensuing kickoff. Coyne was 6-for-7 to get Juniata into Muhlenberg territory for a potential game-winning score. On second and five at the Mules' 27, Alston ran for four yards to the 23. After a JC timeout, he ran again for another four yards to the Mules' 19. Juniata burned its final timeout with one second remaining. Bonalle trotted onto the field for a chance at a game-winning 36 -yard field goal. The Mules called two timeouts to try to rattle the JC kicker. Bonalle finally got his kick off but it would be blocked as time expired and the game went into overtime for the first at Knox since 2008.
The Eagles won the toss and elected to defend first. Starting at the 25-yard line, the Mules converted on Cepeda's one-yard run.
Now it was Juniata's turn to answer. Faced with a fourth and 8, Coyne heaved an arching pass to Breault to the right end of the endzone for the touchdown and Bonalle's extra point tied it again and the game went to a second overtime period.
The Eagles started with the ball first. This time Juniata could not advance very far and Bonalle missed a 42-yard field goal wide right. All it took was one play for the Mules to send them home with the win.
Vidovic led in rushing with 33 yards on six carries. Breault added 31 yards on four carries, Lehr 28 yards on eight carries, and Alston 19 yards on seven rushing attempts.
On the defensive side, the Eagles had nine tackles for losses that totaled 40 yards. Demetrius Floyd (Corapolis, Pa./West Allegheny) led in tackles with nine and also had a sack. Mitchell Shober (Stevens, Pa./Cocalico) had 7.5 total tackles. Jonah Plymire (York, Pa./Central York) and Jake Diviney (Altoona, Pa/Altoona) both had seven tackles and a sack each.
The Eagles go on the road next Saturday to Westminster, Md. to face McDaniel. Game time will be at 1 p.m.