MIFFLINTOWN - It was evident that there wouldn't be a whole lot of passing between Millersburg and Juniata Friday night at Deitrick Field - only four passes were attempted in the first half.
And the opening two quarters were a strong indication of just how much offense was on the field.
The two teams combined for more than 650 yards in the first half. But it was the defensive surge Millersburg put up in the second half that did Juniata in.
The home team was unable to move the ball efficiently in the second half. A big part of that was the loss of star slasher Neil Bodley, and Millersburg did just enough to pull out a stat-filled 40-26 Tri-Valley League victory.
There were three players on the field Friday night that any coach would like to see in the backfield. Bodley was one of them. He rushed for 172 yards in the first half, including an 86-yard touchdown run, before getting hurt after his first carry of the second half.
"Losing Neil was tough," Juniata (4-3, 3-3) coach Gary Klingensmith said. "He's our main man."
IF YOU GO
* Juniata travels to Williams Valley Oct. 19
But believe it or not, Bodley was outdone by a pair of Millersburg rushers.
Quarterback Josh Howard carried the ball 20 times for a staggering 248 yards and a trio of scores. His tailback, Travis Lamereaux, was just as impressive with 235 yards on the ground and two scores.
"We knew that coming in," Klingensmith said. "There is certainly some good talent there. But we should be able to play better defense, that's the bottom line."
On the flip side, both defenses struggled heavily in the first half. And if it wasn't for a 26-point second quarter from the visitors, the celebration could be going the other way. But it was the visitors' defense in the second that did the home team in.
Juniata had only 119 yards of offense in the second half after lighting up the stat sheet with 340 in the first. Much of that was due to Bodley's absence. But give Millersburg credit for slowing Juniata's high-powered rushing attack.
"We made some adjustments," Millersburg coach Brad Hatter said. "We were getting killed in the first half. We told the kids they had to set the edge and once we made those adjustments we were OK."
Juniata started just the way it hoped, scoring twice in the opening quarter. The home team drove the ball down Millersburg's throat right from the start. And four plays in, Bodley connected with Chad Eberle for a 42-yard touchdown strike. Juniata called essentially the same play on back-to-back snaps to free Eberle, who streaked down the middle of the field.
And following two possessions where Millersburg failed to move the ball, Bodley scampered down the sidelines for his long touchdown run to give the home team an early 12-0 advantage.
"I think we did all right moving the ball," Klingensmith said. "We just didn't have a defense tonight."
Millersburg turned the ball over on downs twice in the first quarter, but it scored on its next four possessions.
Following Bodley's long touchdown run in which he basically outran the entire Millersburg defense, the visitors outscored Juniata 26-14 in the second quarter. Millersburg got the next two scores in the game - a Lamereaux 66-yard touchdown and Howard's eight-yard score that was set up by his own 60-yard run.
Although Juniata's defense was wilting, Bodley and Eberle kept on clicking offensively. Another four-play drive ended in a 28-yard run by Eberle to give the lead back to the home team. But it was short lived.
Howard capped off Millersburg's four-play, 57-yard drive with another eight-yard touchdown just two minutes later. The PAT was blocked by Juniata to preserve a 19-18 lead.
With only four minutes to play in the first half, to no surprise, the two teams traded touchdowns going into the half. Bodley capped off a 61-yard drive for Juniata with a six-yard score. But after a long kickoff return from Howard, Alex Frederick punched one in from 17 yards out with only 30 ticks remaining.
In the first half, the two teams combined for an average of more than 11 yards per carry. But the each team's defense would improve in the latter stages of the game.
Millersburg took the opening drive of the second half 70 yards. It was capped off by a Lamereaux 16-yard scamper. And with Bodley injured on Juniata's second play, the home team didn't have enough to keep up.
"(Bodley) went down and we were just decimated," Klingensmith said. "Some of the kids in there played with a lot of heart. When a team gets momentum like that it's hard to stop."
Hatter compared the first half numbers to watching the West Virginia-Baylor Big 12 matchup from two weeks ago. In the game, the two teams combined for more than 1,500 yards of total offense. This one was on pace for that, until the visitors tightened it up on defense.
"I've never seen anything like (the first half)," he said. "Games like West Virginia and Baylor - I like to think we're a defensive team. I was frustrated with that. But we were able to turn it up in the second half."
Juniata gets back to work when it travels to Williams Valley Friday.