By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
BEAVER SPRINGS – East Juniata was within a score late in the first half, looking to pull an upset against a playoff-bound Williams Valley squad.
With one play, the fortunes for the Tigers were flipped upside-down and Williams Valley ran away with a 40-19 win in the Tri-Valley finale for both teams Friday.
The Tigers (2-8, 2-7 TVL) had forced the Vikings (9-1, 8-1) to punt for the second consecutive drive after the Vikings struck on their opening march.
After a first down, the Tigers tried to keep rolling out of their own territory to try and take the lead. Chris Schulgen dropped back for the Tigers as Albert Wolfgang roamed back in coverage for Williams Valley.
Schulgen threw over the middle, connecting with Wolfgang and Wolfgang returned the pick 37 yards for a score to put the Vikings ahead, 20-7.
“You gotta give (Williams Valley) credit,” East Juniata head coach Simon Cameron said. “They have athletes all over the field. (Williams Valley) is probably the best defense we have in the TVL.”
Williams Valley head coach Tim Savage said that his offense has had some difficulty in recent weeks but said his offense came out fast against the Tigers.
The Tigers quickly the ball down the field on their ensuing drive, using a bit of trickery to keep the Vikings off-guard, gaining 38 yards as David Brantley received a backwards pass and connected with a wide-open Matt Aurand.
However, ball security was a problem in the red zone for East Juniata, with a mishandled snap resulting in a turnover at the Vikings’ six-yard line.
Although Brantley made an acrobatic, leaping interception to prevent the Vikings from taking advantage of the fumble, turnovers on consecutive drives helped to take the wind out of the Tigers’ sails offensively.
Out of the break, the difficult breaks for the Tigers continued after the swarming Vikings defense forced a punt.
Cole Barnhardt fielded the punt, made a few defenders miss, found a seam along the left sideline and sprinted into the end zone for a 75-yard punt return touchdown.
Big plays and miscues at important moments proved to be the downfall for a Tigers team looking for a win to snap a long losing streak to end the season.
After East Juniata answered, the Tigers defense looked to stop Williams Valley with their backs to the wall as the Vikings continued to gain large chunks of yardage through the air and on the ground.
After stopping the Vikings twice to force a third-and-five, Nick Rodichok did not let the Tigers shut his offense down on three straight plays, finding Tim Schorr for the score.
“(Schorr) is phenomenal,” Savage said. “He’s done a great job for us all year. He’s one of the leaders on the football team.”
Playing for an injured Stephen Sedesse under center for the Vikings, Rodichok more than held his own, giving Savage a possible glimpse into the future for Williams Valley with the sophomore.
Rodichok finished with 178 yards passing with three touchdowns and one interception.
Savage said that having a backup quarterback of Rodichok’s caliber allows Savage to utilize much of his playbook when his backup is pressed into action.
Rodichok connected with Schorr on a two-point conversion for the final Williams Valley points after Schorr jumped in front of a Reed Bruner pass to find nothing but green grass and a goalpost ahead of him for a score.
The Vikings were able to keep East Juniata off-balance in passing situations, putting pressure on the four quarterbacks that attempted a pass for the Tigers.