Coach: Kurt Condo (3rd season, 9-9)
League/division: Mid-Penn Conference/Liberty
2020 record: 5-2, 2-0
Postseason: Beat Bellefonte 24-21 in the District 6/9 Class 4A championship and reached states before falling to Oil City, 34-33 in the PIAA Class 4A first round.
Passing: Comp-Att, Yards, TDs
Jacob Condo: 68-126, 843, 10
Rushing: Att-Yards, Avg, TDs
G.G. Ortiz: 53-380, 7.2, 6
Jacob Condo: 66-160, 2.4, 4
Receiving: Rec-Yards, Avg, TDs
G.G. Ortiz: 21-203, 9.7, 3
Makih Hunt: 5-88, 17.6, 2
KEY PLAYERS: Jacob Condo, sr., QB-LB; Trent Martin, sr., OT-NG; G.G. Ortiz, sr., RB-DB; Austin Derr, sr., OG-LB; Zach Harr, sr., RB-S; Jonathan Kauffman, jr., C-DL; Jordan Dickinson, jr., FB-LB; Makih Hunt, jr., SE-CB.
OUTLOOK: Buoyed by the return of seven or eight regulars on both sides of the football, Condo’s upbeat Indians genuinely believe another season flush with excitement is on tap in 2021. Experience is one thing, but Juniata played just one time in 2020 at Deitrick Field at Klingensmith Stadium and claimed two overtime victories while on the road. So, little bothers a veteran squad with several players about to begin their fourth varsity seasons — in a program that would typically keep its freshmen at the junior high level. And while a remarkably competitive Mid-Penn Liberty situation will test Condo’s bunch, so will crossover scraps with Middletown and Steel-High. Nonetheless, there’s more than enough balance in Mifflintown to contend and possibly win a Liberty title and hopefully defend the regional (District 6 and 9) championship Juniata collared in 2020. If that happens, another journey to states will be the Indians’ fitting reward.
3 THINGS TO KNOW
1. Juniata eyeing more success
Capturing a postseason championship for the first time since Gary Klingensmith piloted Juniata to District 3’s Class AA title in 1987, Condo is hoping his Indians can do something that his former skipper was unable to accomplish — win two straight District 6/9 Class 4A regional crowns. With his eldest son, Jacob, about to start his third season as Juniata’s starting quarterback — the younger Condo landed the starting QB gig during the second half of his freshman season — the Indians have an experienced field general coming off an all-state campaign and ready to roll. With several experienced skill players such as G.G. Ortiz and Makih Hunt, and newcomers Caleb and Casey Smith around him that can stretch the field, and a veteran line featuring all-stater Trent Martin, Austin Derr and Jonathan Kauffman working up front, Juniata should be able to score. While Martin also will anchor the defensive line — and he’s capable of blowing up opposing fronts — clutch DBs such as Ortiz and Zach Harr will make plays in the secondary. “I think (winning a district title) left a good taste in the kids’ mouths last year, and we have a lot of those kids back,” Kurt Condo said. “They’ve worked hard in the offseason, and they have no doubts in their minds about reaching for the sky as far as their goals. They’re a good group of kids, and they’re a good group of competitors.”
2. Juniata has Mr. Clutch and Mr. Clutch 1A
Although Ortiz may be the smallest player on the football field many nights, the diminutive senior has a knack for making big and even huge plays that stymie opponents, erase deficits and even provide just enough points to claim positive results — whether he’s lining up on offense, defense or one of Juniata’s specialty units. Meanwhile, Harr also displayed those same big-play capabilities by intercepting a pair of passes in the 6/9 Class 4A title game as Juniata turned back Bellefonte 24-21. “Our kids last year — I’ve got to give them credit — they fought through all kinds of adversity, and I think that helps coming into this year,” said Condo, whose Indians downed Lower Dauphin and Lancaster Catholic in overtime on the road. “They really began to believe in themselves.”
3. Renewing acquaintances with former TVL brethren
Since COVID-19 raised constant havoc with regular-season schedules in 2020, Juniata’s Mid-Penn Liberty slate only included encounters with James Buchanan and Halifax. Nonetheless, the division anointed Juniata No. 2 in PennLive’s preseason poll of the league’s seven skippers. “With not playing everyone last year, I don’t even know where to begin just looking at things,” Condo said. “Obviously, we’re just worried about Week 1 against Line Mountain right now. I have a lot of respect for all the coaches in our league, because each week I think everyone’s prepared and it can go either way in most cases.” Condo boiled down the Liberty landscape even further. “We’re not real familiar with everyone else, but they’re not real familiar with what we have.”