Juniata battled tough, falls late to Meadville
Nov 20, 2022


WINGATEJuniata had control for the first threequarters of its PIAA Class 4A playoff football game with Meadville on Saturday.

The fourth quarter was a different story.

The seventh-ranked Bulldogs scored twice in the fourth for a come-from-behind 27-14 victory, ending the Indians season for the second consecutive year. Meadville defeated Juniata 34-27 in the state playoffs a year ago.

Meadville’s bread and butter is its ground game. The unit got off to a slow start but picked up steam in the second half.

All-State tailback Kahlon Simmons ran for 237 yards and three scores, two in the deciding fourth quarter, to lead the Bulldogs (12-1) to the win. The Meadville senior entered the contest with over 2,000 yards rushing and 37 TDs.

The Bulldog ground game gashed Juniata for 340 yards. Meadville attempted only eight passes, completing none.

Freshman Jasper Shepps had a monster outing for the Indians. He finished with four catches for 106 yards and a score. He was even more impressive on defense, racking up six tackles, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery.

Juniata (8-4) struck first, capitalizing on a Shepps interception he returned to the Bulldogs 5. Caleb Smith took it in from thereon the misdirection for the score. A blocked PAT made it 6-0 with 4:41 left in the first half.

Simmons single-handedly led Meadville to its first score. The Bulldog senior carried the ball six times for 75 yards to cap the7-play drive with a six-yard TD around the right end. The kick failed, leaving the score tied 6-6 with 2:16 to go until half.

After a Shepps pick gave the Indians the ball at the start of the second half, they answered right back. QB Aaron Kanagy connected on an 18-yard pass to Casey Smith, moving the ball to the Bulldog 32. Two plays later, Kanagy hit a wide-open Shepps in the end zone for the 34-yard touchdown with 11 seconds on the clock. Seth Laub ran in the conversion to give Juniata the 14-6 halftime lead.

In the second half, the narrative was all about the vaunted Meadville rushing attack led by Simmons. The Bulldogs wore down the Juniata defense, chewing up yardage and the clock, outscoring the Indians 21-0.​​​

Meadville capitalized on a Juniata fumble to take control at the Indian 36. Brady Walker, who had 87 yards on 11 carries, busted in from the two to end the 7-play, 36-yard drive. The conversion failed, with the Indians still holding a slim 14-12 advantage with 3:39 left in the third.

Simmons scored two more times in the fourth to salt the game for Meadville. The first came after the Bulldogs intercepted a pass, giving them the ball on the Juniata 27. Simmons closed out the 6-play drive with a two-yard plunge. He also ran for the two-point conversion, giving the Bulldogs their first lead at 20-14 with six minutes left in regulation.

Simmons ended any hope of an Indian comeback when he kicked his off-tackle run to the outside on the next Meadville possession and raced down the left sideline 65 yards to paydirt.

The Big Red closed out another solid season, finishing second in the Mid-Penn Liberty, winning a District 6 championship, and defeating DuBois in a state playoff game.

Meadville moves on to the Elite 8 with a showdown against Allentown Central Catholic.

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