By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
BEAVER SPRINGS — East Juniata head coach Simon Cameron was pulling out seemingly every play in his playbook to try and reach a third straight win.
Double-reverses, motion pitches and onside kicks were not out of the question for the Tigers. However, Pine Grove was on its game when East Juniata looked to rally, beating the Tigers, 33-14.
"(Pine Grove) wore us down," Cameron said. "They were a solid team. They came out hitting. They were more pumped up than we were at the beginning."
After a long David Brantley touchdown, Cameron kept Pine Grove guessing with an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, which the Tigers recovered in Pine Grove territory. However, as was the case most of the night, the Tigers were unable to capitalize. With Brantley under center on first down, the dynamic running back was swarmed in the backfield for a 15-yard loss throwing a wrench in any plan that Cameron had for the drive.
Pine Grove forced a punt but perhaps was slightly more excited to have the ball back as they should have been, running into Dalton Rowe on the punt and giving the Tigers a fresh set of downs.
The Cardinals defense regrouped back on the field and forced the Tigers into a long third-down to keep the drive moving. One fumbled snap later and Pine Grove’s offense was back in business and the momentum had quickly swung in the Cardinals’ favor.
The Cardinals wasted little time marching 48 yards to the end zone, scoring in two minutes and seven seconds to extend their lead to 27-14 after it appeared East Juniata was destined to tie the game minutes earlier.
Ryan Heim was the driving force on the possession as he was throughout the game for the Cardinals, amassing 32 yards on the drive alone.
Heim added a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Cardinals after East Juniata had been forced into another difficult situation by the Cardinals’ defense. The senior gained chunks of yards to finish with 173 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
The Tigers had trouble throughout the game finding enough time in the backfield to establish a potent offense and had to rely on a long run by Brantley to regain momentum.
"When it came down to it, (Pine Grove) got the pressure in our backfield," Cameron said. "We had trouble getting the ball out all night."
The constant pressure in the Tigers’ backfield did not allow East Juniata to establish any sort of rhythm offensively.
"Anytime your quarterback’s getting hit whenever he’s handing off the ball, you’re in for a long night," Cameron said.
Midway through the third, Brantley was under center and ran a keeper to the left side and appeared to be stopped by a host of Cardinals defenders. However, while Pine Grove may have stopped moving, Brantley kept churning his legs, breaking free and displaying his wheels on a 60-yard touchdown run to move within a touchdown at 21-14.
Brantley also scored the first Tigers touchdown, making a diving catch in the second quarter after East Juniata had worked the ball into the red zone.