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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Liberty Division News and Notes: UD on the cusp of a division title but Susquenita and Juniata still alive; Newport looking for a second win and more

Perhaps it’s entirely fitting that Upper Dauphin is on the cusp of claiming an outright Mid-Penn Liberty Division championship — nearly 50 years since Tom Hain’s Trojans decked Millersburg to win the Twin Valley crown.

Then again, maybe it’s mere coincidence.

Yet while Hain remains involved in the UDA football program as an offensive mentor, there’s still business at hand.

And, quite simply, there’s nothing Line Mountain (4-5, 3-2 Mid-Penn Liberty) would enjoy more than to upend the Trojans (7-2, 5-0) and force their neighbors to share the Mid-Penn Liberty crown with someone.

Although UDA stepped out of league play last weekend, current head coach Kent Smeltz’s squad was forced to fend off Big Spring before leaving Cumberland County with a 42-35 win that stretched the Trojans’ winning streak to six games and kept them plugged into the sixth and final District 3 Class 3A playoff spot.

Since finishing fifth is a mathematical possibility, there’s more work to be accomplished — in addition to celebrating outright Liberty supremacy.

Senior feature back Brady Morgan rushed for 153 yards and three touchdowns — all in the opening half — on 14 carries against Big Spring and caught three passes for 45 yards.

Quarterback Aidan Bingaman also enjoyed a productive performance, completing 13 of his 21 pass attempts for 185 yards and a trio of touchdowns — one each to Eli Farence (4 receptions, 67 yards), Konner Walker (3-40) and Alex Hepler (3-33).

All helped the Trojans build a 35-13 halftime advantage.

Farence picked off two passes, while Landon Mace fell on a fumble. Backer Caleb Snyder totaled 15 tackles for a UDA defensive unit that posted 17 stops for loss and five sacks but allowed 474 yards. Morgan and Hepler added seven tackles each.

Sporting its own Mid-Penn Liberty Division championship hopes when Week 9 began, Line Mountain appeared headed for its fourth straight victory by building a 10-0 halftime lead at Juniata while limiting the Indians to 3 rushing yards.

Things changed dramatically, however, as Juniata limited Brandon Carson’s attack to 13 plays from scrimmage. The Indians ultimately won 14-10 behind 1-yard touchdown runs from Seth Laub and Aaron Kanagy.

Ian Bates paced the Eagles with 57 yards and one touchdown on 18 attempts and is close to becoming the first sophomore in Line Mountain history to crack the 1,000-yard barrier.

Bates, however, was limited to just 5 yards after the break. Brayden Boyer’s 31-yard field goal accounted for the other Line Mountain points.

Quarterback Kaiden Maurer completed 5 of 8 throws for just 26 yards and one touchdown. The Eagles finished with 124 offensive yards.

Inside linebacker Chandon Maurer was tremendous throughout the closely contested 48-minute scrap, registering 13 solo tackles (three tackles for loss) while assisting on three others.

The Indians now need the Eagles’ help in claiming a share of the Mid-Penn Liberty. Even Juniata skipper Kurt Condo couldn’t help but chuckle at that notion while answering questions following the game.

Carson’s Eagles, who edged in front of Hughesville, also are playing for a higher seed in the District 4 Class 2A playoffs. A victory would cement that No. 5 spot for Line Mountain, particularly since UDA is a Class 3A program. Hughesville will be playing neighboring Muncy, an undefeated Class A squad.

Juniata, Susquenita hoping for share of Liberty crown

While Juniata had its shot at Upper Dauphin in Week 8, the Indians (6-3, 4-1) watched a short pick-6  and a fumble inside the Trojans’ 5 in the final minute lead to UDA’s 20-13 win in Elizabethville. Hence, the position everyone’s in.

Should Line Mountain prevail, the Juniata-Susquenita survivor will share the Mid-Penn Liberty crown with Upper Dauphin. If the Trojans win, second place will go to Juniata or a Susquenita side (5-4, 4-1) that’s won three straight.

While Laub and Kanagy posted the Juniata touchdowns — Kanagy finished 6 for 16 passing for 121 yards — Lane Peiper’s stop of an airborne Bates on fourth-and-short at the Line Mountain 44 was big. So was Makih Hunt’s late sack.

Getting three touchdown passes from Derek Gibney (12 of 24, two INTs, 177 yards), Susquenita rolled to a 43-12 conquest of James Buchanan. Gibney’s TD throws went to Drew Gibney (6 yards), Kamar Lewis (14 yards) and Athan Robinson (41 yards) as Augie Glass’ Blackhawks constructed a 29-6 halftime lead.

Mason Figard and Bryce McKee added scoring runs of 3 and 15 yards, while Susquenita also picked up a 30-yard fumble return from Laiken Miller.

Newport searching for second straight victory

Mason Messick and Dalton Kratzer each rushed for touchdowns as Newport snapped an eight-game skid with a 14-7 victory at Halifax. Kratzer rushed 17 times for 93 yards.

Now, Todd Rothermel’s Buffaloes (1-8, 1-4) hope to ground James Buchanan (3-6, 1-4) at George Katchmer Field and close out 2022 on a positive note.

One of four Buffaloes to record interceptions, Zach Bellis paced the ‘Port defensive unit with eight tackles. Tyler Geer, Dylan Vadasz and Messick also swiped passes for the Buffs, who yielded just 154 total yards.

James Buchanan dropped its fifth consecutive contest, falling 43-12 to Susquenita. Jacob Frey rushed for 167 yards and a 63-yard score for JB, which conceded three Derek Gibney TD passes.

Halifax to close out against visiting Trinity

While Earl Mosley’s Halifax squad came mighty close to snapping a five-game skid, the Wildcats tumbled 14-7 to Newport. Isaac Miller’s 9-yard touchdown run halved a 14-0 deficit with 4:50 left in the third quarter, but the ‘Cats could draw no closer against a Buffaloes squad that claimed its first win.

Miller finished with 66 yards on 12 carries, while Peter Ranck hauled in eight passes for 61 yards and rushed four times for 39 yards for Halifax (1-8).

Miller amassed an amazing 25 tackles defensively, including one sack.

He’ll need a similar effort to slow down a Trinity squad (5-4) that lost 35-28 in overtime to state-ranked Steel-High. Christian Joy and Messiah Mickens each wheeled for 100-plus rushing yards in the loss, with Joy netting two TDs.

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