A-Ward Winner: West Standout Now Stars as Juniata QB
Juniata junior quarterback Ward Udinski is majoring in mathematics and management.
It’s the ideal combo for a player who, again, is managing a 180 degree turnaround.
A former C.B. West star, Udinski is the best dual-threat in the Centennial Conference. His 662 yards on the ground rank among conference leaders; he also completed 166 of 293 passes for 2088 yards.
“We run a spread. It fits really well with the personnel that we have, and it’s come a long way since we first put it in when I was a freshman,” stated Udinski, who has started every game of his Juniata career.
“A lot of my runs are designed runs, but I’ve had some long scrambles here and there, and that has started to come in the last few weeks,” he continued. “You’ll see a lot of teams defend the pass because we’ve been pretty effective with it, and they’ll start dropping eight guys and only rushing three. If they’re going to double cover all of my receivers, sometimes I’ll just pull down and take off.”
The 6’3”, 215 pound wrecking ball has won the Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Week three different times this season. Udinski accounted for 396 yards of total offense and five touchdowns in Juniata’s opening day 41-20 win against Thiel.
Two weeks later, Udinski again captured Player of the Week honors when he threw for four touchdowns and 237 yards, while rushing for 76 yards and a fifth score in Juniata’s 38-16 win over Gettysburg.
On October 21st, Udinski completed 25-of-36 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another 97 and a fourth score. Juniata handed Ursinus their first defeat of the year, 28-7. It gained Udinski yet another Player of the Week trophy.
Even more important than the individual honors, Juniata finished the season 7-3….a far cry from the 1-9 mess that Udinski muddled through as a freshman. Although his talent was obvious, Udinski threw 15 picks versus only six touchdowns in 2011. His TD:INT ratio this season was a stellar 16:8.
“It’s the evolution of the offense and the whole team. That is obviously something that we’ve been working on during the last three years,” he credited. “But when you’re not playing as well, like we were freshman and sophomore years, sometimes you try and force some passes or throw some Hail Marys that get picked off. When you start to have a lot more success as a team offensively and defensively, it’s all going to come together and that has shown in that statistic.
“From an offensive perspective, the receivers are getting open, the line is giving me a lot more time to throw and I’m not under as much pressure. When all of that comes together,” he concluded, “it helps me make better plays for the team.”
The seven wins were an even farther cry from Juniata’s recent past. From 2004 through 2010, the Eagles won just six games.
“The first year was definitely not easy,” Udinski remembered. “It was Coach (Tim) Launtz’s first year as a head coach. I was starting right away. It was a rebuilding process for the team and we definitely had our bumps and bruises.
“The turnaround came on Week 6 of freshman year when we played at Ursinus. They were a very good team. But we played really well and I had a very good game. Everything started to click and you could see the program start to turn around from that point.”
Udinski arrived in Huntingdon having led CB West to a 9-3 season and a road playoff win during his senior year- a year highlighted when he scored the winning touchdown in the final minute to fell archrival CB East.
“The culture here is so much different than it used to be. That was one of my goals coming here. This was the same situation we had back at CB West,” he reminded.
Udinski the West senior had a phenomenal year. Udinski the West junior had to slog through a one-win campaign. “They were still recovering from the split, between South, East and West. Our goal in high school was to turn it around,” he remembered. “That was the same goal I had here coming to Juniata.
“(Juniata) had been struggling for a couple of seasons but we really felt like we could make a difference. Things are so much different from the way they used to be when I was a freshman,” he noted. “From the talent level and the attitude towards practice and the games, and the belief we have in each other, knowing we can win every week.”
Udinski ended the Fall ranked fifth all-time in career rushing among Centennial quarterbacks, and eighth all-time in total yards. Always team-minded, Udinski hopes to keep the Eagles soaring to new heights in 2014, even as he flies further up the conference annals.
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