A week ago, Juniata’s football team gave up 692 total yards to perennial Centennial Conference power Johns Hopkins and lost a 56-0 decision in the Eagles’ final home game.
It wasn’t a perfect finale, but all could be forgotten when Juniata travels to Susquehanna to end the season with the annual Goal Post Trophy game. Kickoff in Selinsgrove is at 1 p.m.
The Eagles come into the contest 0-9, but a lot would be forgiven with a win in this rivalry. On the other hand, the River Hawks 6-3, the only team to beat Johns Hopkins so far this season, regained the trophy in 2016 and it’s still in their possession.
A lot of what happened at Knox Stadium last Saturday has been filed away, Eagle head coach Tim Launtz has been able to find to positives.
“Johns Hopkins is a very good team, but their were some confidence building things that came out of the game,” he stated. “The were times we were able to compete and make plays. We can build on that.
“The ability to learn, get reps and playing time against a quality opponent will be good for the program. The hope is that the younger kids will improve through the experience.”
The River Hawks got off to a good start to the season. After opening with a 38-7 win over Lycoming, the opened conference play with a 37-35 win over visiting Johns Hopkins.
The hangover was tough to recover from and Susquehanna quickly slipped to 2-2 with overtime losses to Muhlenberg (37-34) and at Franklin & Marshall (14-7). The River Hawks ended the slide with a 30-24 overtime victory at Dickinson, but came home and lost 21-18 to Moravian.
Susquehanna has won its last three, downing Ursinus 41-35 in overtime, Gettysburg 27-9 and McDaniel 20-3.
“Susquehanna is well coached and always has a good game plan,” said Launtz. “The changed they make create ‘what if’ situations for opponents and take up practice time.
“The quarterback is a freshman and he’s very good, although he didn’t play last week. The skill players fit into their scheme and the offensive line moves well. The running game tries to get the ball to the perimeter with RPOs and jet sweeps. There’s a lot of motion to determine what the defense is going to do and to take advantage.”
Michael Ruisch is the freshman quarter. He has completed 135 of 260 passes for 1,647 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Backup Nicholas Brotzman has connected on 27 of 55 attempts for 305 yards with two TDs and one interception.
The running game is led by Aaron Speight with 554 yards and nine touchdowns. Ruisch and Torey Brown add 185 yards each. Brown has three TD.
Mitch Carsley is the top receiver with 44 catches for 778 yards and six TD. Kyle Good has 32 catches and a TD, while Mikah Christian adds 23 grabs and four TD. Anthony McCoy has 20 catches and three TD.
“Defensively, Susquehanna has the two best corners in the Centennial Conference,” Launtz continued. “They’re very physical.
“The linebackers are good, solid football players. The defensively line uses a lot of fronts and twists. They like to change the front right before the snap to cause doubt in the opposing offense.
“The returners on special teams are dangerous. The specialist fit the roles and dictate field position.”
The Eagles, who have been plagued by injuries, have struggled offensively.
Senior Tim Graham is the quarterback, if he’s OK to play, and has completed 72 of 120 passes for 637 yards and six TDs. He’s been picked off five times. Backup Jason Jones has hit 53 of 115 attempts for 503 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions.
Freshman Ian Border (Huntingdon) leads the ground attack with 246 yards and two scores. Sophomore Lane Chalmers adds 159 yards. The top receiver is senior Daulton Snyder with 46 catches for 435 yards and two TDs. Shaheed Ross has 38 catches and four scores, while Sean Owens has 25 grabs and four TDs. A.J. Brocato adds 18 catches and a TD.
“Our offensive key is to not allow their movement to cause us to doubt what we’re doing,” Launtz concluded. “We have to run the ball, create plays and be physical.
“Defensively, we can’t give up big plays. We have to set the edge and not let them get to the perimeter. We want to make Susquehanna earn everything it gets.
“This week, it’s about the rivalry. Everybody understands. It’s a one-game season and nothing else matters.”
Susquehanna leads the series 41-34-3 since the first meeting in 1923.