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Mid-Penn Conference News and Notes: Liberty Division

Each week during the 2021 season we’ll offer some news, notes, tidbits and opinions from each of the five divisions in the Mid-Penn Conference.

Juniata moving closer to crown

With its dependable defense yielding virtually nothing — 22 offensive yards — Juniata churned past Newport last weekend by a 24-0 count and moved one more sizable step toward claiming the Liberty Division title. Kurt Condo’s Indians (6-2, 4-0) pitched their second consecutive shutout (third overall), stretched their winning streak to four games and strengthened their hold on the No. 1 spot in the District 6 Class 4A power rankings.

Burly fullback Seth Laub hammered out a second straight 100-yard effort (nine carries, 135 yards) and scored the first and third touchdowns for Juniata, while QB Aaron Kanagy rushed for another score and Ben Wagner tacked on a first-half field goal. Down lineman Jon Kauffman and inside linebacker Waylon Ehrenzeller shared the team lead with seven tackles — the tandem was responsible for two of the Indians’ four sacks — while Kauffman fell on two Buffaloes fumbles and Makih Hunt swiped a Newport pass.

Juniata did commit three turnovers, so here’s a guess that Condo spent plenty of the week trying to get those miscues cleaned up. Up next for Juniata is a lengthy trek to James Buchanan (1-6, 1-3), which dropped a 42-7 decision to Susquenita last weekend and has lost its last five.

Around the Liberty

Line Mountain (0-7, 0-3) continues its quest to pin down an elusive first victory, the the Eagles came mighty, mighty close last weekend before falling 20-19 at North Penn-Mansfield. What had Brandon Carson’s club in position to win was a productive attack that piled up nearly 400 offensive yards, with most of those coming on the ground as Nolan Baumert rushed 17 times for 175 yards and one score and Beau Keim added 75 more on a dozen totes. Baumert’s 29-yard jaunt early in the third quarter had the Eagles up 19-14, but North Penn-Mansfield connected for the eventual game-winner by converting a fourth-and-long with just more than eight minutes to play.

What hurt Line Mountain was three turnovers, a missed placement and two off-the-mark field goal attempts. Defensively, the Eagles picked up 15 tackles and a fumble recovery from inside ‘backer Chandon Maurer and 10 stops from the ballhawking Keim. Line Mountain also registered 11.5 tackles for loss, while Maurer and Keim split a sack. Newport (2-6, 2-2) was limited to 22 offensive yards in a 24-0 loss to league-leading Juniata, but veteran skipper Todd Rothermel will have something ready to go since he played and coached at Line Mountain. … Now sitting fourth in the District 3 Class 2A power rankings, Susquenita (4-3, 3-1) will be looking to solidify its postseason chances with a victory at Halifax (1-5, 0-3).

Bryce McKee last weekend rushed 17 times for 197 yards and two scores — he also caught two passes for 50 yards and a third touchdown — as Susquenita romped past James Buchanan 42-7. Augie Glass’ club also scored when Laiken Miller recovered a blocked punt in the end zone, and Tristan Brown returned an interception 22 yards to cap a 28-0 first-quarter burst. Already facing numbers issues, Halifax hasn’t played since finishing the first half of a 38-7 loss Oct. 1 to Juniata. So, we’ll see what happens.

UDA heading for Berks CountyWhile Upper Dauphin’s visit to Fleetwood would seem like just another non-league encounter packing few ramifications, that’ll hardly be the case when Kent Smeltz’s Trojans (6-1) step off the bus ready to chase their sixth straight victory. With QB Wil Laskowski rushing for 57 yards and three touchdowns — he also hooked up with Aiden Wiest for a passing score and tacked on three two-point conversions — Smeltz’s bunch eclipsed late fill-in Executive Education 38-14 in Elizabethville.

Christian Snyder added 110 rushing yards on 15 carries for UDA, which played without slippery running back Brady Morgan. Smeltz’s Trojans also put together a terrific defensive effort, posting 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks while strengthening their grip on the No. 3 spot in the District 3 Class 2A power rankings. One of those hits knocked out QB Darmel Lopez, who one week earlier threw for 370-plus yards and four touchdowns in a win over Line Mountain.

Fleetwood (5-3) claimed its third straight victim last weekend, edging Hamburg 28-26 behind three touchdown passes from Villanova recruit Tanner Maddocks and one rushing score from Gavin Morris. These Tigers, who sit 13th in the District 3 Class 5A power rankings, also sport a huge offensive front, and that will pose an intriguing problem for Smeltz’s smallish Trojans.

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