BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The Moravian College football team returns to road with a trip to Juniata College for a Centennial Conference contest on Saturday, October 26. Kickoff is slated for 12:00 p.m. at Montgomery Field at Knox Stadium in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
THE COACHES: Jeff Pukszyn (Moravian '98) is entering his ninth season as Moravian's head coach after ten years as an assistant coach with the program. Pukszyn joined the Moravian staff as a part-time coach in 1997 after a three-year playing career that saw him named to the All-Middle Atlantic Conference First Team in 1994 and 1996. He was also a two-time captain. Pukszyn became part of the coaching staff full-time in 1999 as defensive coordinator and added the titles of assistant head coach in 2001 and special teams coordinator in 2007. In 2015, Pukszyn led the Greyhounds to an 8-3 record and a berth in the inaugural Centennial-MAC Bowl Series while being named both the Centennial Conference and American Football Coaches Association Division III Region 2 Coach of the Year. He has been a part of 262 games for Moravian since 1994 with a 125-136-1 record. During the bye week, Pukszyn was inducted into Moravian's Hall of Fame for his playing career.
Juniata coach Tim Launtz (Juniata '80) is in his ninth year at the school with a 28-59 mark.
THE SERIES: Saturday's meeting will be the 65th in the series with Moravian holding a 34-28-2 lead. The Greyhounds posted a 31-14 win last fall in Bethlehem to extend its current winning streak in the series to five games. The Eagles last victory was a 27-14 triumph in Bethlehem in 2013. The series has had a history of close games with a streak of five straight years in which the game ended in a regulation tie from 1995 until 1999. Four of those games went to overtime with three won by Moravian.
GREYHOUNDS IN THE CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE: Moravian joined the Centennial Conference as an associate member in the sport of football in 2007. The Greyhounds were selected seventh in the 2019 Centennial Conference preseason coaches and sports information directors poll while Juniata was selected tenth.
BALANCED & EXPERIENCED 'HOUNDS: Of the 87 players on the Moravian roster, 23 are freshmen, 31 are sophomores and 18 are juniors. There are 15 seniors on this season's squad, and the Greyhounds return 59 letterwinners and 17 starters.
THE QUARTERBACKS: Sophomore Christopher Mills has completed 76-of-140 passes this season for 940 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions in his second season as a starter. Freshman David LePoidevin has completed 5-of-17 passes for 35 yards with two interceptions as he made his first career start at No. 21 Johns Hopkins University.
IN THE BACKFIELD: Senior Roberto Diez leads the running backs with 612 yards and four touchdowns on 127 carries while freshman running back Carrington Smith has carried the ball 28 times for 61 yards this season. Freshman quarterback/running back Sherwin Stewart has rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries while junior wide receiver Nick Petros has contributed seven yards on two carries and sophomore wide receiver/linebacker Romello Walters has one attempt for three yards.
THE WIDE RECEIVERS: The Greyhounds have had 13 different players catch a pass this season led by junior Nick Petros, who has 25 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Eddie Olsen has 17 receptions for 299 yards and two touchdowns while senior Alex Pierce has nine receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Cory Little has caught six passes for 73 yards while senior wide receiver Andrew Lelie also has six receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Romello Walters caught four for 30 yards before moving to defense while senior tight end Nick Cregar has caught three passes for 20 yards and a touchdown. Senior running back Roberto Diez has three catches for 39 yards while freshman running back Carrington Smith has three receptions for 18 yards. Senior fullback Sal Pagano has two catches this season for one yard while sophomore tight end Matt Nimas has one reception for 22 yards. Junior wide receiver Trevor Cunningham has caught one pass for 11 yards while freshman quarterback/running back Sherwin Stewart has one reception for four yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Moravian has four returners on the offensive line with the fifth starter from 2018, junior PJ Weierbach, now on the defensive side of the ball. Seniors right tackle Jason Barish, center Brett Poling, left tackle Tyler Maxsim and left guard Zack Cregar all return to the front line with sophomore Frank Sallusti moved into the starting right guard position. The Greyhounds' front five has an average size of 6-2, 275.
DEFENSIVE FRONT: Junior Shane Mastro leads the defensive front with 36 tackles including two and a half sacks and three tackles for loss while junior Austin Heisler has added 55 tackles including four and a half sacks, five and a half tackles for loss, two pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a blocked punt at Gettysburg College. Junior PJ Weierbach has made 22 tackles with three and a half for loss and, one and a half a sacks, a pass break-up, a fumble recovery versus Susquehanna University and a blocked field goal at Gettysburg in his first season on the defensive side of the ball while junior Brady Hornbaker has contributed 18 stops with half a sack, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Senior Mike O'Hagan has recorded eight tackles while junior Andrew Stein also has eight stops with one for loss and two pass break-ups. Junior Sean Agar has added five tackles and a pass break-up while senior Christian Coia has four tackles.
THE LINEBACKER CORPS: Junior Tanner Barr tops the linebackers and the Moravian defense with 43 tackles with two and a half for loss while sophomore Noah Breidinger has contributed 40 tackles including one for loss, two pass break-ups and a fumble recovery. Sophomore Nicholas Azpeitia has made 15 tackles after moving into the starting line-up versus Susquehanna while senior Tim Valentine is playing a hybrid linebacker/defensive back and has 15 tackles with an interception and two passes defended. Sophomore Romello Walters moved from offense to defense and is seeing time at linebacker and defensive back, and he has made 14 tackles to go with two passes defended and an interception returned 79 yards for a touchdown versus Ursinus College, his first game on defense. Junior Kyle Kooker has seven tackles with one and a half for loss while freshman Jack Gawlik has four stops with one for loss and a blocked kick while freshman Wes Asche has made two tackles.
THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD: Junior Renard Nicholson leads the defensive backs with 41 tackles to go with one sack, three tackles for loss and two pass break-ups while junior Jackson Buskirk has 39 stops with four tackles for loss and four pass break-ups. Junior Justin McRae has added 21 tackles with an interception versus Susquehanna and five pass break-ups while sophomore Connor Lyon has 15 tackles and two pass break-ups. Junior Jalen Richardson has contributed seven stops with one tackle for loss.
KICKING GAME: Sophomore transfer Jack Coary is 3-for-4 on extra-points this season, 1-for-1 on field goals with a long of 21 yards and has kicked off five times for an average of 57.0 yards with one touchback while freshman Trevor Yacuboski has kicked off 15 times for an average of 57.4 yards with two touchbacks and is 1-for-1 on extra-points. Junior Brendan Morgans is 7-for-9 on extra-points, and he has punted three times for an average of 53.7 yards with a long of 58 yards, one touchback, one inside the 20-yard line and one blocked. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros has punted 24 times for an average of 38.2 yards, a long of 65 yards, two touchbacks and five inside the 20-yard line while sophomore wide receiver Tadd Barr has punted six times for an average of 34.5 yards with two fair caught. Sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills has punted once this year for 12 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sophomore wide receiver Cory Little has 12 kickoff returns for 392 yards with a long of 87 yards while freshman wide receiver Ethen Aquino has returned four kickoffs for 79 yards with a long of 32 yards. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros has returned two kickoffs for 53 yards with a long of 37 yards while freshman quarterback/running back Sherwin Stewart has returned two kickoffs for 49 yards with a long of 27 yards. Sophomore wide receiver/linebacker Romello Walters has one kickoff return for 21 yards while junior defensive back Jalen Richardson has returned one kickoff for 19 yards. Junior defensive back Justin McRae has one kickoff return for 18 yards while junior linebacker Tanner Barr has one kickoff return for 11 yards. Junior defensive back Jackson Buskirk has returned four punts for 21 yards while senior running back Nick Princiotta and junior wide receiver Trevor Cunningham have each made three tackles on special teams. Freshman running back Ethan Deater has made two special teams tackles.
MILESTONE WATCH: The Greyhounds have three players closing in on milestones in their careers. Senior running back Roberto Diez became the 25th Greyhound to reach 1,000 career rushing yards versus Ursinus College, and he has 1,316 yards (16th in the record book) on 303 carries with 10 touchdowns in his career. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros sits in 11th place in school history with 1,446 receiving yards, and he needs 86 yards to reach the top 10. Petros also needs six receptions to reach 100 for his career, and he is fourth with 15 career touchdown receptions, just four shy of setting the school record. He is seventh with a 35.7 career punting average on 120 punts (eighth all-time) for 4,280 yards (eighth in school history). Sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills enters the week needing 737 yards to become the eighth Greyhound to throw for 3,000 yards.
THE CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE STATISTICAL RANKINGS: The Greyhounds are ninth in the Centennial Conference in total offense at 272.2 yards per game, and the squad is ninth in rushing offense with an average of 109.7 yards per contest and eighth in passing offense at 162.5 yards per outing. The Hounds are tenth in the conference in scoring offense at 16.3 points per game, and Moravian is seventh in points allowed at 26.5. Moravian's defense ranks eighth in the Centennial Conference at 392.30 yards allowed per game, and the squad is seventh in rushing defense at 165.2 yards per contest and seventh in passing defense at 227.2 yards allowed. Individually, senior running back Roberto Diez leads in the Centennial Conference at 101.2 rushing yards per contest, and he is fourth in all-purpose yardage at 107.7 yards per game. Junior wide receiver/punter Nick Petros is sixth in the conference in receptions per game at 4.2 and second in punting with an average of 38.20 yards per punt and while sophomore wide receiver Eddie Olsen is seventh in receiving yards per contest at 59.8. Sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills is seventh in the conference in passing yards per game at 188.0, and his seventh in pass efficiency with a 120.0 rating. Junior defensive back Jackson Buskirk is tied for eighth with four punt returns while sophomore wide receiver Cory Little is fifth with 12 kickoff returns and first in kickoff return average at 32.7. Sophomore linebacker Noah Breidinger is tied for seventh at 8.0 tackles per game while junior linebacker Tanner Barr is tied for ninth at 7.2 tackles per contest. Junior defensive back Renard Nicholson is tied for 15th in tackles at 6.8 per outing while junior defensive end Austin Heisler is tied for fifth with four and a half sacks and tied for 12th with five and a half tackles for loss.
OVERTIME 'HOUNDS: Moravian has played a total of 10 overtime games since the NCAA instituted the rule for the 1996 season and is 7-3 all-time in the extra-session. Five of those ten overtime games have been against Juniata College with the Greyhounds going 4-1 in those games. Moravian's contest in Huntingdon in 2008 marked the first time in the Greyhounds' have needed more than one overtime session in a game. The 2008 season also marked the third year that Moravian has played at least two overtimes games in one season, the other years were 1999 when the Greyhounds played three overtime games and 1997 when Moravian played two overtime contests.
SCOUTING JUNIATA COLLEGE: The Eagles enter the game at 2-4 overall and 2-3 in Centennial Conference action after a 31-28 loss in the final seconds to Gettysburg College last week. Juniata is being led on the field by senior quarterback Austin Montgomery, who has completed 94-of-153 passes for 1,215 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions, and he has also run for 247 yards and two touchdowns on 82 carries. Junior wide receiver Shaheed Ross has a team-high 21 receptions for 285 yards and two scores while junior wide receiver Sean Owens has 20 catches for 286 yards. Sophomore tight end Ben Lauver has caught 16 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown while senior running back Calvin Bembry has 12 receptions for 218 yards and five touchdowns to go with a team-high 265 yards rushing and another two scores on 73 carries. Junior running back Charles Debose has carried the ball 41 times for 136 and five touchdowns to go with seven receptions for 60 yards. Ross has returned 10 kickoffs for 105 yards while freshman defensive back Marson Weh has 11 kickoff returns for 252 yards and two punt returns for 28 yards. Junior kicker Sam Craig is 11-for-15 on extra-points this fall and 2-for-2 on field goals with a long of 25 yards while freshman Noah Wright is averaging 35.9 yards on 28 punts with a long of 51 yards, five inside the 20-yard line, seven fair caught and one touchback. Sophomore linebacker Jamel Foster leads the Eagles' defense with 42 tackles to go with three tackles for loss, two and a half sacks, an interception and a forced fumble while freshman linebacker Bryson Clark has 38 tackles with three and a half for loss and two sacks. Sophomore defensive back Nate Barron has contributed 34 stops with one for loss and a pass break-up while Weh has 30 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. Junior defensive lineman Zach Krug leads Juniata with three sacks while sophomore Josh Parson has 23 tackles with three and a half for loss, one and a half sacks and a fumble recovery. Senior defensive lineman Adam Kipp also has 23 stops to go with one and a half for loss, three pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick, and senior defensive lineman Hunter Price also has a blocked kick while junior defensive back Josh Singleton has 21 tackles with one for loss, two interceptions, four passes defended and a forced fumble for the Eagles.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: In Bethlehem last fall, Moravian rallied from a 14-6 deficit in the second quarter behind quarterback Christopher Mills to post a 31-14 victory over Juniata College in Centennial Conference action for Homecoming on Rocco Calvo Field. Mills, who moved to 3-0 as the Greyhounds' starting quarterback, completed 22-of-29 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns, and he added 17 yards on nine carries as the Blue and Grey racked up 432 yards on 71 plays while controlling the clock for 34:26. Wide receiver Nick Petros had his fourth consecutive 100-yard game with eight catches for 170 yards including touchdown receptions of 35 and 67 yards. Petros also punted twice for 78 yards with a long of 50 yards. Wide receiver Cory Little caught six passes for 62 yards and returned a pair of kickoffs for 31 yards while wide receiver Alex Pierce had three receptions for 35 yards. Wide receiver Andrew Lelie also caught three passes for 25 yards while tight end Nick Cregar had his first two receptions of the season for 10 yards. The Greyhounds picked up 130 yards on 42 carries with Roberto Diez carrying 16 times or 61 yards and a touchdown. Running back Eli Redmond added 52 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries as he became the 11th player in school history to reach 2,000 career yards. Running back Gerald Grube had six yards on three attempts while quarterback Doug Erney added two yards on a carry that was fumbled at the goal line and recovered by Diez for a score. Kicker Jon Miller connected on a 20-yard field goal to send Moravian to the locker room with a 17-14 lead, and he added a pair of extra points for five points. Linebacker Dallas Owen led the Greyhounds' defense with 11 tackles while defensive lineman Nick Tone had eight tackles with three and a half for loss and three of the Hounds' five sacks in the game, and Tone also forced a fumble. Linebacker Brady Hornbaker had seven tackles with one save while defensive back Jalen Richardson had four tackle with a pair of pass break-ups. Defensive lineman Tijir Bleam added Moravian's other sack among his two tackles. Linebackers Nick Zambelli and Tanner Stokes each had five tackles with Stokes adding a tackle for loss while defensive lineman Shane Mastro and defensive lineman Mike O'Hagan each collected four tackles with Mastro breaking up a pass and O'Hagan adding a half a tackle for loss. Defensive back Justin McRae contributed three tackles and a forced fumble while linebacker Austin Heisler had three stops and defensive back Jackson Buskirk added two tackles, a fumble recovery, a pass break-up and a punt return for three yards. Moravian received the opening kickoff and punted on its first drive as did Juniata. The Greyhounds' second drive would end when Petros fumbled on a tackle after a reception gained eight yards. The Hounds' defense forced a three-and-out but the punt would be downed at the one-yard line. Facing 99 yards to the end zone, Mills would lead the Greyhounds on a 14-play drive for the first score of the game. The drive began with back-to-back runs by Diez before Mills hit Pierce and Petros with back-to-back first down passes to move the ball to midfield. Redmond would go for nine yards on the next play to break the 2,000-yard milestone. Redmond finished off the drive nine plays later with back to back runs, the latter going for three yards and a touchdown. A bad snap on the extra-point attempt forced an incomplete pass from Petros to give the Hounds a 6-0 lead with 2:18 left in the first quarter. Juniata would march down the field an answer with an 11-play drive to take a 7-6 lead with 12:46 left in the second quarter. Diez was stripped of the ball on the second play of Moravian's next possession, and the Eagles turned the miscue into another touchdown as they extended their lead to 14-6 with 10:55 left in the first half. Juniata attempted an onside kick that the Greyhounds recovered at midfield. Mills found Pierce for 15 yards on the first play of the drive and then Petros caught a crossing route and raced 35 yards into the end zone. Mills would connect with Redmond on a two-point conversion as the Hounds knotted the score at 14-14 with 10:23 before the intermission. Moravian's defense would force a stop on fourth-and-in at midfield to get the ball back to the offense. The Blue and Grey moved into the red zone on a 20-yard pass from Mills to Little and the Greyhounds would have six plays from inside the six-yard line due to a penalty but couldn't crack the goal line before bringing Miller one for his 20-yard field goal and a 17-14 lead with 1:32 left until halftime. Juniata opened the second half with the ball and put together a 12-play drive for a fourth down stop gave Moravian the ball at its own 31-yard line. After a short pass from Mills to Petros and a run by Diez, Miller found Petros behind the Eagles' defense for a 67-yard touchdown pass. Miller's extra-point push the Greyhounds' advantage to 24-14 with 7:46 to go in the third quarter. Juniata punted after three plays and the Greyhounds would go on another long drive that covered 96 yards on 17 plays and ended with the final points of the game. Facing another play inside the two-yard line, Erney came into the game and attempted to jump over the pile into the end zone. As he stretched the ball out, it was knocked loose and rolled around in the end zone until Diez fell on it for the touchdown. Miller split the uprights with his 20th PAT of the season for a 31-14 lead with 12:24 remaining in the contest. The Greyhounds offense would get the ball right back as McRae forced a fumble recovered by Buskirk, but the Blue and Grey were unable to capitalize.