By JEFFREY L. NORRIS
With only two games left this season, the Juniata College football team will face a pair of traditionally tough opponents. The Eagles (2-6) will travel to Baltimore Saturday to take on perennial Centennial Conference powerhouse Johns Hopkins (5-3).
A week ago, Juniata was on the road for a matchup with Dickinson and faded offensively in the second half and lost a 51-21 decision to the Red Devils.
“Offensively, we were able to do things that most teams hadn’t done to them this season,” said Eagle coach Tim Launtz. “We got pressure on the quarterback, but we couldn’t stop him from scrambling. Our defensive line did a great job, shutting down their running game.
“We weren’t successful in our pass coverage and gave up some chunk plays. We played a lot of young kids and they aren’t quitting. It shows they’re learning and improving.”
The Eagles played without quarterback Austin Montgomery, who was out with an injury. Tyler Clark got the start.
“Tyler did well managing the offense,” said Launtz. “He kept our offense in positions for good opportunities. He’s always prepared and ready to go.”
Johns Hopkins is in a very unusual position. The Blue Jays are just 4-3 in the league and in fourth place in the standings. They cannot win the conference title. The Blue Jays losses are to Susquehanna, F&M and Muhlenberg.
“We can’t focus on their record. Johns Hopkins is still a very good football team,” said Launtz. “They have a lot of skill and a lot of speed. They have a receiver who has 25 catches for 400-plus yards in the last two weeks. In my opinion, they have the best quarterback and receiving corps in the conference.
“Offensively, they take advantage of their senior quarterback. They want to throw the ball. They like to spread you and have size and speed on the perimeter. They take a number of shots downfield every game.
“To run the ball, they’ll use zone stuff or some other things. Their running back in a typical Centennial Conference running back. But, the quarterback can beat you with his feet.”
Quarterback David Tammaro has complete 184 of 301 pass attempts for 2,377 yards with 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He is also the Blue Jays’ leading rushers with 273 yards and four touchdowns. Dave Rogerson has fun for 238 yards and a pair of TDs.
Harrison Wellman is the leading receiver with 58 catches for 962 yards and 10 scores. Ryan Hubley adds 41 catches for 493 yards and two TDs.
“Defensively, they are very similar to Dickinson,” Launtz noted. “They want to get an extra person in the box, but they don’t disguise where he’s coming from. They use a 4-4 base and play a lot of man in the secondary. They’re very fast on the edges.
“The defensive ends have a lot of sacks in the get a very fast flow from the linebackers and secondary.”
Juniata has picked up its running game in spot lately. Calvin Bembry III leads the way with 387 yards and thee scores. Charles Debose adds 182 yards with six scores.
With Montgomery expected to miss another game, Clark will get his second straight start. He has completed 23 of 39 passes for 203 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.
Shaheed Ross leads with 27 catches, two for scores. Ben Lauver has been coming on strong and how has 25 catches and two scores. Sean Owens has grabbed 24 balls with no TDs and Bembry has 18 catches, six for touchdowns.
“This week, we need to look forward to the challenge of making plays against a good football team,” Launtz concluded. “We have to challenge them.
“Defensively, we have to tackle in space and limit YAC yards. We don’t’ want to let them get into a good offensive rhythm. Offensively, the key is up front. We’ve got to get movement up front for our running game. That will open up our passing game.”
Juniata won the first meeting between the two teams by a 7-0 score in 1929. They didn’t meet again until Juniata entered the Centennial Conference in 2007 and the Blue Jays have won each meeting since to lead the series 12-1. Hopkins won 56-0 a year ago.