FOUNTAIN SPRINGS In a big time football match-up a lot of the time the outcome is decided by who can make the least amount of mistakes.
That was exactly the case in the game between Tamaqua and North Schuylkill last night. The Raiders defense came to play, forcing five turnovers en-route to a huge 24-10 Anthracite League victory. With the win Tamaqua stays at the top of the AFL and also took one step closer to cementing a spot in the District 11 AA playoffs.
"This was definitely a big win, us being 5-0 and them being 4-1 coming in to tonight and it definitely puts us in a good position moving forward," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "Our coaches did a great job of preparing our defense for this game tonight. Defensively we really made some nice plays and we kept their playmakers under wraps for a good majority of the night."
One of the reasons for the Raiders defensive dominance was senior defensive tackle Nick Hollenbach. Nick "the quick" was in the Spartans backfield all night wrestling down Spartans' multi-threat weapon Ethan Motsney on several occasions. Hollenbach has been invading backfields throughout the season and Coach Bonner sent praise the senior's way after the game.
"Nick Hollenbach played a great game tonight," said Bonner. "He was making plays all over and really made it tough for them to get anything going on offense. We could see it coming into this year that he was going to be a difference maker and he's living up to what we saw."
The big difference in this one as noted were turnovers, especially the Spartans miscue right before the end of the first half. Motsney took a handoff from freshman quarterback Bobby Grigas, fumbling the ball on their seven yard line with just 21 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Two plays later Nate Edmonds would score after he dropped back, couldn't find a receiver, and scrambled to the end zone lowering his shoulder to get over the goal line. The Edmonds touchdown would extend the Tamaqua lead to 12-3.
"The touchdown right before the half was big for us," said Bonner. "We called a fire pass, which is a quick pass, he didn't see anything so he lowered his shoulder and got the score. That just shows how tough of a kid he is and how bad he wanted to win tonight."
Tamaqua's next two scores came in the fourth on a Dustin Vandermartin 48-yard scamper off a reverse and a Dalton Nunemacher eight yard run. Vandermartin was the all-purpose man as he caught a nine yard score for the Raiders first touchdown on the night. Nunemacher has been the life blood of Tamaqua all season and put together another solid night rushing 15 times for 80 yards.
North Schuylkill just didn't look comfortable throughout the game and never got anything going on offense. The Spartans also couldn't stop the Raiders rushing attack giving up 241 yards on the ground.
"In big game you can't have turnovers. Our turnovers gave them good field position and the good field position turned into points," said North Schuylkill coach Rick Geist. "We just got to play better. I know there's a lot of young guys out there, but it doesn't matter. When guys get hurt you have to step up and play so we need to get back to work and start getting back to the way we play football."
Tamaqua will now face off with a Schuylkill Haven squad next week that gave the Spartans their first loss in 30 AFL games a few weeks ago.
"We got our work cut out for us again this week," said Bonner. "This was a nice win, but we can't get too high because we have a lot of good football teams left to play."