TAMAQUA – Grif Griffiths admitted that the Tamaqua High football players have had next Friday's homecoming game against North Schuylkill in the back of their minds. He also stressed that the Blue Raiders were not about to dwell on the game until, well, just about the time they left the field Friday night.
Like the previous four times the Raiders have left the field this year, they left as winners – this time with a dominating 42-6 non-league victory over visiting Kutztown (1-4). That the Raiders (5-0) won was expected; the unknown was if they would look past the team they defeated twice last year – 28-19 in the regular season and 35-14 in the Eastern Conference Class AA semifinals.
Tamaqua answered that question by scoring on its first two possessions and building a 21-0 halftime lead. In the second half, the Raiders remained focused, scoring in both quarters and pulling away behind a punishing ground game that used 49 carries to gain 386 yards.
"This team isn't looking past anyone, and it was nice to get off to the quick start," coach Sam Bonner said. "They were focused, but we also made some mistakes that we won't be able to afford when we play teams like North Schuylkill.
"I think they appreciate what they've accomplished, but they're looking for more. They know that means eliminating the mistakes and playing better every week."
Without saying so, Bonner obviously was referring to North Schuylkill, which has built its 5-0 record against Anthracite Football League competition. While the Raiders are 3-0 in the AFL, they know what awaits them in the second half of the season.
For that reason, the Raiders wanted to get back to basics against Kutztown, and that meant running the ball. Griffiths led the punishing ground game with 23 carries for 173 yards, opening the scoring with an 11-yard run and adding a 1-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
In addition, three other Raiders rushed for more than 50 yards and scored, including quarterback Ryan Palsgrove, who carried seven times for 70 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, he also completed a 29-yard touchdown to Anthony Bumbulsky, who also had two carries for 22 yards.
Fullback Garth Lakitsky had nine carries for 58 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter for a 28-6 lead. Jarred Muffley was effective in a reserve role, carrying six times for 70 yards, capping the scoring with a 41-yard TD run.
"We didn't look ahead, and we don't take any team lightly," Griffiths said. "We went into the game looking to run the ball and wanted to take control.
"Now, we can start thinking about North Schuylkill and what it's going to take to win that game. It's good to have them here, but we've got to play our best."
Friday, the Raiders were at their best when they used 12 plays to score on a 99-yard drive that ended in the fourth quarter on the 1-yard run by Griffiths. His 11-yard touchdown run capped a six-play, 57-yard drive to open the game.
Tamaqua's second possession resulted in a six-play, 77-yard drive that was capped by Palsgrove's 29-yard run. Midway through the second quarter, Bumbulsky scored on a 29-yard screen pass on fourth-and-9.