Friday night's game between Tamaqua and Pleasant Valley was thought to be a run versus the pass battle.
As it turned out, both teams brought a 'ground-and-pound' approach.
Both the Raiders and the Bears rushed for over 200 yards as a team and racked up at least 300 yards of total offense. Tamaqua used its ground game to build a 14-7 lead over Pleasant Valley, but the Bears responded with 21 unanswered points in the second half to come from behind and knock off the Raiders 28-14 in non-conference play.
Pleasant Valley showed a different look from its usual spread attack and started out in the I-Formation. The Bears hit for some big runs early but ultimately turned the ball over on downs. They later turned back to the spread attack and were able to hit for two big passing touchdowns. Then, to end the game, Pleasant Valley went back to the 'I' and pounded out a late score en route to the victory.
"We wanted to be as multiple as we could be," said Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger. "We showed the I-Formation and the Spread and I thought both looks gave us some advantages and some different ideas. It was more-or-less just trying to keep Tamaqua off balance because they do play great defense."
As for Tamaqua, it was a night of missed opportunities. Twice the Raiders had short-yardage situations and failed to pick up a first down. One time they turned the ball over on downs and the other they were forced to punt the ball away. Later in the fourth with the game tied, Tamaqua missed an open receiver on fourth down. The Bears then took the lead for good five plays later.
"We had some opportunities to hit some open receivers that we missed that I thought could have put us in better shape," said Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner. "It's also important to pick up those third-and-shorts. We did that in the first half, but it seemed like we sputtered out in the second half when we had to make a play. Both offensively and defensively.
"I thought our kids played a heck of a game, but just have to learn how to make some plays when we need them."
Tamaqua took the first lead of the night when Tyler Hope ran it in from 17 yards out. The lead was short-lived however, as Pleasant Valley's Rob Getz returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.
The Raiders re-took the lead midway through the second quarter on a Dalton Nunemacher 33-yard touchdown run. Nunemacher hit for some big reverse plays and finished with 103 yards on six carries. A two-point pass made the score 14-7 Tamaqua heading into the break.
That's when things turned in Pleasant Valley's favor, as its offense and defense came alive. Quarterback Troy Verway found Andrew Romeo for two scores to give the Bears a 21-14 lead. The first came on a perfectly thrown ball for a 35-yard strike. The second came late in the fourth and was highlight reel quality, as Romeo went up in double coverage, tipped the ball up, fell on his back and had the ball land in his stomach for the go-ahead touchdown.
"I was just running a post, ran inside and saw two defenders there," said Romeo. "Troy threw the ball up, so I was trying to knock it down as a defender. The ball got tipped and landed right on me. It was a play that turned out great for us."
Meanwhile, the Bears' defense blanked the Raiders' offense for the entire second half. The deepest Tamaqua would get would be the Bears' 30, but an incomplete pass turned the ball over on downs. On the next drive, Pleasant Valley's Dean Bumbulsky picked off a pass for the second consecutive week to all but end the Raiders' hopes of a comeback. Getz then took it to the house from 32-yards out on the very next play.
"Our defense clamped down," Terwilliger said. "We gave up a lot of yardage, but if we give up only 14 points with the playmakers that we have then we will be in most ballgames. That's the bottom line. Our kids played great in the second half. I am really proud of them."
Bonner said afterward that he thought his team just missed out on a few plays here and there that could have changed the outcome of the game.
"I thought we played a heck of a first half," said Bonner. "We just have to play a full four quarters. I thought we ran out of steam in the fourth quarter when we had an opportunity to make some plays. We have to make plays when we get a chance to."