Late Push Downs Eagles in ECAC Championship
By: Jennifer Jones
Director of Sports Information
firstname.lastname@example.org • juniatasports.net
READING, Pa. – The Juniata College football team started strong, but could not hold on as it fell 45-34 to Albright College in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Southwest Bowl Saturday afternoon. The Eagles held the ball for 3:44 in the first 5:35 of play and scored 14 points. Juniata (7-3) ended its year with the most wins since 1990. This also was Juniata's first postseason appearance in 40 years.
"We played with great passion and great intensity," said head coach Tim Launtz. "We never gave up. College is about learning and we need to use this as a learning experience."
Juniata had the lead three times before a late fourth quarter push by Albright put the game out of reach.
Junior Ward Udinski (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks West) earned a game-high 318 total yards with three touchdowns. He passed for a game-high 223 yards and rushed for a game-high 95 yards.
Defensively, senior Kevin Gorman (Waverly, N.Y./Waverly Central) dominated the second level. The linebacker finished with a game-high 10 tackles, seven solo, and one tackle for a loss. Up front it was seniors Brandon Felus (Columbia, Pa./Columbia) and Jared Shope (Altoona, Pa./Altoona) causing trouble for the Lion quarterbacks. They combined for 10 tackles, five tackles for a loss of 19 yards, and three sacks. Shope also forced a fumble and hurried the quarterback four times in the contest.
Eagles lose 11 seniors from this historic team including four defensive starters and just two offensive starters. The 2013 senior class has helped the team make the second biggest turnaround in program history during their career. Only one other class (1949) has gone from a winless season, to one of such success in their four years. They will graduate with 11 career wins under their belts, more than any other class since 2004.
"They formed a foundation that we'll use in the future to continue to turn this program around," Launtz said of the seniors. "They left a heck of a legacy. They should be very proud of their achievement."
With over 80-percent of its roster underclassmen, Juniata has a bright future ahead.
"We need to use this to build off of," said Launtz. "We've got a very good nucleus and I know these kids will work very hard. We have some outstanding leaders and we will pick up where we left off. And that is never giving up and always improving."
It only took Juniata 2:59 to open scoring. Udinski found an opening and took it nine yards into the end zone for his 10th rushing touchdown of the season.
After Kysor's ensuing 61-yard kickoff was caught and taken out of bounds on the 35-yard line, the Eagle defense stepped up and forced a three-and-out series from Albright and Juniata's offense took over again.
On first and 17, Udinski found freshman Aaron O'Brien (York, Pa./York Catholic) down far sideline for a 30-yard gain. Alston took care of the rest and punched it in from two yards out to put the Eagles up 14-0 just 5:35 into the contest.
"Just came ready to play," said Launtz of the start. Executed and did what we needed to do."
The Lions responded on their next drive. They moved the ball 57 yards on eight plays to earn their first touchdown before the end of the first quarter. Albright went on to tie the game 14-all on their first drive of the second quarter.
On first and 10 from Albright's 45, Udinski ran a keeper up the middle for an 18-yard gain. The lions picked up a personal foul call on the next play that pushed Juniata into the red zone. Udinksi rolled out to the right looking for a receiver and found open space. He took to the sideline and dove across the line for his second rushing TD of the day to give the Eagles the 21-14 lead with 5:23 left before the break.
Albright answered the call. With 1:49 on the clock, Daniel McNair found TJ Luddy in the back of the end zone for the equalizer. The teams would end the half tied up 21-21.
The Eagles defense held Albright to three and out on their first possession and the offense took over on the on their own 29-yard line.
Udinksi hit O'Brien in the middle on the first play from scrimmage and he ran it down to the 2-yard line before being dragged down from behind after a 69-yard gain. Alston came in and cleaned it up again, punching in his second TD of the day and third of the season.
On a critical third and two, the Udinski-O'Brien combo connected again for a nine-yard gain, pushing Juniata across the 50. The Eagles then began pounding at the line. Sophomore Michael John(Osceola Mills, Pa./Philipsburg-Osceola) put six and seven yard runs back-to-back to help take time off.
The Lions defense was able to make the stop and Juniata turned it over on downs.
In a pivotal moment with 7:49 left in the game, Albright was fourth and one on Juniata's 23-yard line. The Lions called timeout and came back with a 5-yard run up the middle to keep the drive going. They would go on to score a touchdown and take the lead 31-28.
Juniata's offense went three-and-out on its next possession and the Lions took advantage. Luddy hit the outside and found an opening down the numbers rushing it 52 yards for the touchdown with five minutes remaining. Albright would score again just a 1:15 later on a pick six down the near sideline that up them ahead 45-28 with 3:45 to play.
The Eagles mounted a response, pushing the ball down field to the Lion 31. Udinski then found Schuck for a 21-yard touchdown, pulling the Eagles within 11 points. But Juniata couldn't connect on the 2-point conversion, holding the score at 45-34.
Despite the Eagles using all of their timeouts, Albright successfully ran most the time off the clock in their possession to earn the win and second consecutive ECAC title.
"Albright is a very experienced football team," added Launtz. "They have tremendous size and athletic ability and they created some real matchup problems for us. We sure didn't give up and we played as best we could."
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