Susquehanna Claims Goalpost with 24-17 Win over Juniata in Season Finale

Deonte Alston ran for a season-best 133 yards and scored a 37-yard touchdown in his final game as an Eagle.
Deonte Alston ran for a season-best 133 yards and scored a 37-yard touchdown in his final game as an Eagle.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. Juniata and Susquehanna battled once again in the annual Goalpost Game at a cold and windy Knox Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Crusaders scored late in third quarter to break a 17-17 tie and held on for a 24-17 victory to take the Goalpost for the first time in three years. It was also Senior Day as the team recognized its 15 graduating senior players, two cheerleaders, and two student managers.


In his final game as an Eagles running back, Deonte Alston (Bel Air, Md./Patterson Mill) carried the ball 16 times for a season-best 133 yards and a touchdown. His 37-yard score in the third quarter was his longest of the season.  "He made it a point that he was going out with a big football game and he really did some great things," said head coach Tim Launtz after the game.  "Deonte works very, very hard and has from Day 1 that he came here. I'm so happy that the he had that kind of game at his last time at Juniata."


The Eagles began the game with possession and received excellent field position after SU kicker Dylan Jenkins' kickoff went out of bounds. On second and 10, Alston ripped off a huge 34-yard run to get JC to the SU31. After quarterback Hank Coyne completed an eight-yard pass to Maurice Slinger (Pittsburgh, Pa./Upper St. Clair) to move the ball to the 23, Alston ran for 15 yards to the eight. The drive ended as Coyne was picked off by the Crusaders' Tom McLoughlin at the two.


Backed up in their own territory, the Susquehanna offense would go three and out. After an exchange of punts, the Eagles had first down at the SU 15 after a Kirby Breault (Elizabethtown, Pa./Elizabethtown) 14-yard rush. Juniata moved to the SU 7 after Coyne ran for five yards on third down. Kevin Bonalle (Lebanon, Pa./Cedar Crest) came out and kicked a 24-yard field goal to give JC a 3-0 lead with 5:54 left in the first quarter.


Susquehanna started its next drive at its own 35 and Joel Reighard's (Altoona, Pa./Altoona Area HS) kickoff went out of bounds. The big play came when quarterback Nick Crusco connected with Diamente Holloway for 44 yards down to the JC 7. Two plays later, Cameron Ott ran it in from two yards and the Crusaders led 7-3 at 3:15.


The Eagles would answer back. Starting at their own 30 after an 18-yard Breault kick return, Matt Lehr (Dover, Pa./York Catholic) ran for six, two, and three yards to give the Blue and Gold a first down at their own 41. Coyne hooked up with Aaron O'Brien (York, Pa./York Catholic) for 19 and five yards and finally 35 yards to Hunter Phillips (Funkstown, Pa./South Hagerstown) for the touchdown and Bonalle's extra point gave Juniata back a three-point lead, 10-7, with eight seconds left in the first period.


In the beginning of the second quarter, Susquehanna converted a third and 10 from the JC 40 on a Crusco 14-yard gain to make it first and 10 at the JC 26. Two plays later, Crusco completed to Holloway for a 14-yard touchdown and the lead went back to the Crusaders, 14-10, at 11:23 of the second quarter.


The Eagles' next drive ended with an interception and SU took over at the Juniata 41 with 7:54 to play in the second. Kyle Neuschatz's 53-yard run put the ball at the JC nine-yard line. The defense stood firm as the Crusaders were denied and kicked a field goal to increase their lead to 17-10 with 5:36 to go in the half and the score held up at the break.


The Crusaders had the ball to begin the second half. The Eagles defense once again came up big as John Michael Maclay (Reedsville, Pa./Mifflin County) broke up a fourth down pass to give Juniata possession.


Starting at its own 29, JC moved quickly downfield. On a third and eight, Coyne completed a 25-yard pass to Breault for a first down at the SU 44. Another completion, this time to O'Brien for seven yards, moved the ball to the SU 37. From there, Alston busted out a 37-yard scamper to the end zone and with Bonalle's extra point, the contest was tied up at 17-all with 8:31 remaining in the quarter.


The Crusaders started their next possession at their own 12. SU moved into Juniata territory on a Crusco 15-yard run on first and 10. An unsportsmanlike penalty on Cruso backed the Crusaders to their own 42. Susquehanna was able to get back into the Eagle end of the field and Cruso took it in himself from the one with 2:22 remaining to give the Crusaders a 24-17 lead.


Susquehanna looked to increase its lead at the 8:17 mark of the fourth quarter. On a third and six from the JC 14, Crusco's pass was knocked down by Jonah Plymire (York, Pa./Central York) to force fourth down. Evan Argiriou came on the field to attempt a 31-yard field goal but his try bounced off the left upright and back onto the field and the SU lead stood at 24-17.


The Eagles were unable to generate any offensive momentum for the remaining period. The Crusaders took over with just under three minutes to play in JC territory. The defense was able to come up with a stop and force a punt. Breault fielded the punt at his own 13 but was could not control the ball as the Crusaders took over for the final snap of the game and came out with the victory.


Coyne finished 11-of-24 for 130 yards. He had one touchdown pass and two interceptions. O'Brien caught four of Coyne's passes for 39 yards. Breault finished with two grabs for 34 yards. Phillips caught two passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.


On defense, Demetrius Floyd (Coraopolis, Pa./West Allegheny) had nine tackles with two going for losses of seven yards. Andrew Paterno (Waynesboro, Pa./Waynesboro Area Sr. HS) picked up six tackles and also had two tackles for losses. Luke Navin (Bel Air, Md./John Carroll HS), Anton Morrow (Boiling Springs, Pa./Boiling Springs), and Nick Bonavita (Sheffield, Pa./Sheffield Area HS) also had tallied six tackles. Morrow added a sack and a pass breakup.


"Like we say, we never lose at Juniata, we either win or learn," stated Launtz. "I think the seniors can be very proud of the legacy that they left behind. We have outstanding young men here and they never give up. We are a better football team today then we were against Grove City and that's where you want to be."