By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
BEAVER SPRINGS — Newport coach Todd Rothermel and East Juniata coach Simon Cameron could have both been holding their breath in their Tri-Valley League games last week.
Rothermel’s Newport Buffaloes escaped a Line Mountain squad that started to find its footing late in the game while Cameron’s East Juniata team nearly erased a 17-point lead to Juniata in the fourth quarter before dropping a 47-44 decision.
“The big thing that the kids took away (from the loss) is that we can compete,” Cameron said. “They never gave up even when they were down 17 (points) with five minutes left.”
The Tigers rallied to pull within three after a David Brantley kick return touchdown and a passing score but could not pull ahead.
For Rothermel, the win against Line Mountain gave him a victory against his old team and Newport’s first win over the Eagles since 2005.
“It was an important win for our program,” Rothermel said. “It was important for our kids’ confidence.”
Newport and East Juniata will face off this week in a battle of two teams going in different directions.
Newport has won each of the last two weeks by a field goal margin while East Juniata has dropped three straight after starting the year 2-0.
“Our kids are definitely looking back to getting on a winning streak,” Cameron said.
Cameron explained that turnovers and mistakes have been the downfall of the Tigers during their three-game slide.
A win might not come easy for East Juniata against a Newport team that has won in multiple ways this season.
Against Juniata, Newport turned on its offense and outscored the Indians before playing stifling defense against Line Mountain, taking the Eagles out of their comfort zone and forcing punts and miscues.
A large part of Newport’s success was the play of Mason Arbogast in the backfield. He seemed like a different player in the second half, breaking two long touchdown runs.
Cameron credited Newport for the multiple ways in which its coaching staff uses Arbogast.
“We need to wrap him (up),” Cameron said regarding Arbogast. “He’s a hard runner.”
Despite the Tigers’ recent skid, Rothermel was quick to mention the skill of the East Juniata offense.
“I think they’re pretty dangerous,” Rothermel said. “They concerned me last year and they concern me this year.”
Rothermel is also concerned with a tough runner on the opposing team in Brantley.
“He’s a very good athlete,” Rothermel said. “He is the real deal.”
Rothermel added that Kevin Allen and Matt Aurand in the passing games are two of the other playmakers at Cameron’s disposal.
Cameron said that Newport prefers to spread the ball around the field to different playmakers instead of running its offense through one player.
“They have a lot of guys that get involved,” Cameron said. “It keeps the defense honest.”
An additional challenge for the Tigers to overcome against the Buffaloes will be a new player under center for Cameron’s bunch.
After Josh Zimmerman left last week’s loss to Juniata in the first quarter with an injury, the Tigers rotated quarterbacks for the remainder of the game.
Cameron said either Reed Bruner or Dylan Feltman will get the nod at quarterback but he added that it will be difficult to replace Zimmerman’s athleticism.