HEGINS - A thrilling fourth quarter has Tri-Valley sitting where not too many people expected the Dawgs to be after two games.
Hunter Harner scored the go-ahead touchdown on an eight-yard run and Tri-Valley's defense made a goal-line stand in the final seconds to give the Dawgs a thrilling, 29-22 victory over Juniata in the Tri-Valley League opener for both schools Friday night.
"It was Jeckyll and Hyde," Tri-Valley coach Mike Ulicny said. "We were Jeckyl and Hyde, they were Jeckyl and Hyde. They came out in the second half and responded. They took it to us and we did just enough to not let them score.
"It was pretty nailbiting."
The Dawgs dominated the first half, as Harner ran for a touchdown and threw for two more as Tri-Valley built a 21-0 halftime lead.
Juniata travels to Line Mountain Sept. 13
Harner, who finished with 18 carries for 126 yards, scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter and completed TD passes of 42 yards to Jared Buchanan and 68 yards to Tanner Coleman.
Tri-Valley, however, fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half and Juniata, setting the table for the Indians to dominate the final two quarters.
Ty Treaster scored on a pair of five-yard runs and Chad Eberle returned a punt 72 yards for a score. Treaster's second TD gave the Indians a 22-21 lead with 10:51 left.
"It was a game of momentum, that's for sure," Ulicny said. "We fumbled the opening kickoff, we gave them the punt return. They had the momentum, and they drove down and got the lead. It was a little scary."
The Dawgs, however, weren't done.
Tri-Valley put together a drive of its own, with Harner's 8-yard run giving the Dawgs the lead. His two-point conversion run gave Tri-Valley a seven-point lead with 4:16 left.
Juniata responded, moving the football to the Tri-Valley 1-yard line. On the game's final play the Dawgs' defense held, as Juniata came up inches short as time expired.
Standout senior running back Neil Bodley didn't play for Juniata after pulling his hamstring in last week's loss to Penns Valley.
Regardless, Juniata head coach Gary Klingensmith gave credit to Tri-Valley.
"Tri-Valley came out ready to play hardball and with a team full of juniors, sophomores and even freshmen," the veteran coach said. "It's a lesson in a way for the team to learn to start coming out strong."
Klingensmith gave credit to the Tri-Valley team as a whole for its performance, noting, "They have a big strong line, and it turned out to be too much to handle."