HUNTINGDON, Pa. - The Juniata College football team had an offensive explosion in the second half, putting up 35 points en route to a 41-32 victory over visiting Grove City. The win marks the Eagles fourth win over Grove City since 2014.
Joel Reighard (Altoona, Pa./Altoona Area HS) did a bit of everything to help the Eagles to victory. He made eight tackles (six solo), had one TFL, a pass break up, a 70 yard punt-return touchdown, had seven kickoffs that averaged over 57 yards and kicked six extra points.
Austin Montgomery (Bedford, Pa./Bedford Area HS) was 26-32 for 333 yards, four touchdowns passing and a rushing touchdown. Justin Helsel (Martinsburg, Pa./Central Martinsburg) caught nine balls for 139 yards and three touchdowns while Matt Lehr (Claysburg/Claysburg-Kimmel HS) carried the ball 15 times for 87 yards. AJ Brocato (Abingdon, Pa./Patterson Mills HS) had six receptions for 53 yards and Jake Notestine (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin HS) caught three balls for 56 yards. Aldo Legge (Aliquippa, Pa./Central Valley HS) had two sacks and two TFLs while Nick Gray (West Decatur, Pa./Phillipsburg-Osceola HS) and Tanner College (Osterburg, Pa./Chestnut-Ridge HS) each made six tackles and notched a sack and a TFL a piece.
The Eagles opened the 2017 season with a strong six-play 69-yard drive. Montgomery hit Lehr for a nine-yard gain. He then found Dion Lattanzi (Downingtown, Pa./Downingtown West HS) for a seven-yard gain before he found Helsel for a 28-yard gain. Montgomery found Ensel in the back left side of the end zone to give Juniata a 7-0 lead early in the game.
The Wolverines turned around and scored on their opening drive, highlighted by a 50-yard catch and run which made it 7-7.
Juniata got the ball on their 48 and started moving through the air again. The Eagles got down to the Grove City 27 and faced a fourth & one. Montgomery managed two yards to keep the drive alive. Four plays later, however, his errant pass was intercepted on the one-yard line with 3:46 left in the first.
The Wolverines embarked on a lengthy drive all the way down to the Juniata 21 without facing a third down. After allowing an eight-yard completion, the Eagle defense buckled down and made consecutive plays in the Grove City backfield to push them back. This was crucial as the Grove City kicker pushed his kick wide right.
The Juniata offense could not gain any traction over their final three drives while Grove City scored on a 28-yard TD pass and then kicked a field goal as time expired as Juniata trailed 17-7 at half.
The Eagles forced Grove City to go three and out to open the third, with Tanner College (Osterburg/Chestnut-Ridge HS) getting a big sack on third down to give the ball back to the offense.
Joel Reighard (Altoona, Pa./Altoona Area HS) had his first big punt-return, taking the punt 50 yards to the Wolverine 20. Montgomery eventually found Helsel from seven yards out to narrow the margin to three at 17-14.
Grove City started from their own ten as they tried to answer. Several plays, including a 36-yard pass, got them to the Juniata 40. The Eagles defense managed to get to fourth down, but the Wolverines went for it and hit on a 34-yard pass and scored to push the margin back to ten at 24-14 with 7:59 to go.
Starting from their own 22, the Eagles marched 78 yards on in six plays in just under two minutes. Helsel caught a 40-yard pass while Montgomery capped the drive with a three-yard TD scamper to get Juniata back within three.
The Wolverine offense took the ball from their 10 and made it to the Eagles 44 before they had to punt. Grove City got a favorable bounce on the punt and downed the ball on the two-yard line with just under a minute to go in the third.
Montgomery led the offense on a three and half minute, 12 play, 98-yard drive that culminated in Helsel catching his third touchdown with 12 minutes left in the game to give Juniata their first lead of the game at 28-24.
Grove City got the ball at the 23, threw an incompletion and ran for a yard before John Maclay (Belleville, Pa./Mifflin County HS) made a leaping interception to give the Eagle offense the ball at the Grove City 40. Juniata didn't waste any time as Montgomery hit Notestine for a 40-yard bomb to expand the lead to 35.
Grove City went three and out and punted from their 21. Reighard got the ball at his own 30 then bobbed and weaved his way through the Wolverines special team's unit. He broke one final tackle to get into the end zone which made it 42-24 with 8:39 to go.
The visiting Wolverines hunkered down and went on a long, 12-play drive that ended in a touchdown that took them over five minutes to score.
Juniata took over with three and half minutes and ran out the clock to clinch the victory.
Juniata will open Centennial Conference play at Franklin and Marshall, Saturday at 1:00.