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Simmons, Meadville Earn Wild Win Over Juniata in PIAA 4A First Round

MEADVILLE, Pa. – All it took was one play for Khalon Simmons and the Meadville Bulldogs.

Tied at 27-27 with Juniata in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A playoffs, the Bulldogs had 91 yards in front of them with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Some great blocking, a missed tackle and Simmons was off to the races, scampering 91 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Juniata got the ball back, but Amarri Lewis knocked away a fourth-down pass attempt by the Indians’ Jake Condo with 42 seconds to go to seal the state playoff win for the Bulldogs, matching the one they got back in 2016.

“Honestly, the blocking on that play was their elite, it was open all night,” Simmons said. “The second I ran it I hit the outside and cut it back…I was dead tired, but it was a good play. I have to 100 percent give it to the blocking and our line.”

See Simmons’ full interview here:

It was a game in which Meadville was leading 20-0 late in the second quarter, outgaining Juniata 222-16 before a 2-minute drive at the end of the half yielded the Indians’ first points courtesy of a Jordan Dickinson 4-yard run with 56 seconds to go in the half.

From there, it was game on.

“I think we shocked them a little bit in the first half but I’ve watched enough film on Juniata to know that they aren’t going away,” said Meadville coach Ray Collins. “I knew we had a ball game on our hands. That quarterback (Condo) just really rallied their team.”

Griffin Buzzell had a 41-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the game for the Bulldogs (9-3) and Simmons scored on runs of three and one yards, but during halftime, something clicked for the District 6 champion Indians’ defense, limiting the Bulldogs to just 76 yards of offense in the second half before Simmons’ 91-yarder.

Simmons’ first touchdown was set up by a blocked punt that gave Meadville the ball at the Juniata three-yard line.

“I thought they became way more aggressive in the second half,” Collins said of the Indians. “That was the big thing I noticed. Their kids were playing fast.”

The third quarter was wild, as there were three touchdowns scored in a span of 44 seconds.

First, it was Juniata capping a 56-yard drive to open the second half with a one-yard run from Condo to make it 20-14.

Simmons responded by showing his big-play ability, taking the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown, the only time the Bulldogs scored in the second half until his 91-yarder.

Juniata (10-3) got the ball back at their own 40 and scored immediately with Condo finding Yanniel Oritz on a screen pass, with Oritz racing 60 yards for the score to make it 27-20 after Simmons blocked the extra point.

After Meadville turned the ball over on downs at the Juniata 19, the Indians proceeded to go on an 81-yard to tie the game.

Condo helped set up the game-tying score, plugging away on the ground. He finished with a team-high 131 yards on 14 carries.

It was Seth Laub who got in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter, however, breaking tackles and rumbling in for a 34-yard score that, coupled with the extra point, tied the game.

With all the momentum in Juniata’s favor, Meadville never wavered.

“Our kids didn’t give up,” Collins said. “They didn’t panic. They just stayed in the fight and came up big on defense a couple of different times.”

The total yardage read 389-334 in favor of Meadville, with all of it coming on the ground for the Bulldogs. Simmons finished with 190 yards, Buzzell 113 and Lewis 86.

Condo accounted for 276 yards of total offense – 145 in the air and the 131 on the ground.

With the win, Meadville advances to play Jersey Shore, a 24-7 winner of Allentown Central Catholic, in the quarterfinals next week at a site and time to be determined.

“We get to practice on Thanksgiving,” Collins said. “We’re going to get ready for a really good Jersey Shore team.”

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