MIFFLINTOWN - Heading into the 65th renewal of the Newport-Juniata rivalry, all signs pointed to a low-scoring, defensive slug fest.
Both teams offenses were minus their senior quarterbacks - the Indians' Neil Bodley and the Buffaloes' Justin Temple both were sidelined by early season injuries and both teams struggled when in possession of the ball in recent weeks.
But as the old saying goes, that is why you play the game. The two squads combined to put up 87 points - the most ever in a meeting between these two Tri-Valley League rivals - in a thrilling 45-42 Buffalo victory.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Juniata’s Sheldon Miller, right, catches a pass as Newport’s Mason Arbogast goes for the tackle Friday at Dietrick Field in Mifflintown. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
The Buffaloes wasted no time setting the tone early. Senior Brian Auxt blasted through the Juniata defense on his team's first offensive snap for 56 yards.
Newport used its size advantage up front to dominate the line of scrimmage as the visiting team's backs ran through the resulting holes for 275 yards.
"We were outmanned on the lines tonight," Juniata coach Gary Klingensmith said. "It's hard to win when your defense is getting blown off the ball."
Although clearly Newport's strength was on the ground, the first touchdown came through the air as Marcus Jones found Trevon Dorman in the end zone from five yards out to give his team an early 7-0 lead.
Juniata responded quickly by covering 75 yards in six plays. Freshman quarterback Tyler Clark's back-to-back completions to senior Dakota McNemar and junior Sheldon Miller were key to the march. Senior Chad Eberle's six-yard touchdown run cut the score to 7-6.
Eberle's 22-yard punt allowed the Indians to start their next drive in Newport territory, but Mason Arbogast's interception extinguished the threat.
After an 11-yard run by Hunter Wirth on a fake punt kept the drive alive, Jones connected with Auxt on a screen for a nine-yard score on the first play of the second quarter to extend the lead to 14-6.
Jones, who had completed only seven of 23 passes for 103 yards through the first three games, was a very efficient 5-of-9 for 63 yards including his pair of scores.
Next time Juniata had the ball, just 20 seconds later, Jones intercepted his counterpart and returned the ball 21 yards to up the lead to 21-6.
Unfazed, the Indians covered 73 yards on eight plays. Klingensmith opened up the playbook as Ty Treaster found McNemar for 44 yards on a halfback option play. Treaster rumbled in from the 4 on the next play for the first of his three scores. Clark hit Miller on the conversion to cut the advantage to 21-14.
The teams traded scores before the half as an Auxt four-yard run finished a seven-play, 53-yard Buffalo stomp and Clark found Treaster on a 55-yard bomb to keep the Indians within striking distance at 28-21.
Following a rare Indian stop on Newport's second-half opening possession, Juniata covered 58 yards on eight plays with Treaster galloping in from the 13 to tie the game at 28-28.
The Buffaloes' Tyler Fegley then put the Buffaloes back on top via a 37-yard field goal.
Newport's defense rose to the occasion by forcing its first three-and-out of the contest. The Buffaloes then launched a 13-play demoralizing offensive expedition that chewed 7:09 off the fourth quarter clock. Along the way, Newport converted four third downs on that drive; the Buffaloes were an astonishing 10-for-14 on third down in the game. Jones finished the slog by plowing in from the 2 to make the score 38-28.
Clark wasted no time answering as three straight completions covered 68 yards as Eberle hauled in a 35-yarder to make the score 38-35 with 4:04 to go.
Following an unsuccessful onside kick, Juniata got another shot when Chantz Swartz recovered a fumble, but a sack and penalty left the Indians facing fourth-and-24. On the fourth down play Clark nearly connected with McNemar, who was behind defense, but he could not quite haul it in.
Arbogast, who lead all rushers with 99 yards on 17 carries, broke free for a 23-yard scoring jaunt and the score was 45-35.
Juniata refused to go quietly in the night however as following another interception Newport tried kneeling on the ball but was forced to punt. Eberle returned it 71 yards to make the final margin.
Juniata (1-3, 1-2) hosts East Juniata Sept. 27.
Notes: The previous combined high score for the series was 69 in a 48-21 Juniata win in 1987. Juniata still leads the all-time series, 37-24-4.