SHENANDOAH - Last season, Tamaqua pulled out close wins in its first three games en route to a 5-0 start.
So far this season, the tide has turned against the Blue Raiders.
Host Shenandoah Valley unleashed an explosive attack that racked up 503 yards of offense, with running back Eric Whalen rumbling into the end zone from 12 yards out with 2:14 remaining as the Blue Devils rallied for a hard-fought 34-27 victory Friday night in an Anthracite League shootout at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The triumph was the first of the season for Shenandoah Valley (1-2 overall, 1-1 league), while Tamaqua fell to 0-3 (0-2 league).
Devils sophomore quarterback Chris Palubinsky torched the Raiders by completing 20 of 36 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns, also running for one himself.
The Devils arsenal of receivers plagued the Raiders all game, led by Billy Moyer, who hauled in five passes for 181 yards and two TDs. Nick Merva also grabbed a TD pass and tight end Blaise Breslosky (6-53) and Colin Karahuta (4-65) helped keep the sticks moving as the Devils racked up 22 first downs.
"Our wide receivers played their butts off, all of them," said Shenandoah Valley coach Nick Sajone. "They (The Raiders) wanted to play us man. Chris was able to get the ball where it had to be, and we protected him."
As if the passing game wasn't enough, Whalen gashed the Raiders on the ground for 153 yards on 23 carries.
The Raiders also had their share of big plays. QB Ryan Palsgrove connected with fullback Garth Lakitsky down the sideline for a 78-yard scoring strike to put Tamaqua in front 6-0.
The Devils then marched 78 yards on 11 plays, with Whalen doing most of the damage. Palubinsky drove across the goal line from three yards out, and Breslosky's extra point kick made it 7-6 Devils with 11:55 to go in the first half.
Grif Griffiths answered by breaking loose for an 88 yard TD return on the ensuing kickoff, but a personal foul penatly on the Raiders cost them the go-ahead score.
The Devils took advantage. Palubinsky lofted a pass into the flat that Merva turned into a 14-yard TD, then hooked up with Moyer on an 86 yard bomb to widen the gap to 20-6 with 1:38 left in the half.
A 49 yard pass from Palsgrove to Muffley set up a one-yard TD plunge by Lakitsky that cut the deficit to 20-13 at the half, although the Devils were knocking on the doorstep when the half ended.
The Raiders pulled to within 20-19 on a Griffiths one-yard TD plunge in the third quarter, but a 19-yard Palubinsky to Moyer TD hook-up pushed the deficit back to 26-19.
Muffley then intercepted Palubinsky and raced 34 yards to the SV 1, with Griffiths plowing into the end zone. Palsgrove's PAT run gave the Raiders a 27-26 lead with 11:55 to go.
Griffiths sacked Palubinsky to force a punt on the next series, but a holding penalty derailed a Raider drive. The Devils got the ball back with 4:32 remaining and drove 77 yards, with Palubinsky going 5-for-8 for 65 yards to set up Whalen's TD run.
"They made the plays that we didn't," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "Right now the mistakes we are making are more mental than physical. We had a chance to close things out tonight and we didn't get it done."