Some football teams are lucky enough to have a feature back that they can hand the ball off to when the game is on the line. In the pro ranks, the Chicago Bears had Walter Payton, the Detroit Lions had Barry Sanders and presently the Philadelphia Eagles have LeSean McCoy.
Then they're some football teams that depend on two running backs. A most common term used to describe that sort of system is "thunder and lightning" because one back is typically used to run between the tackles and the other is used to attack the edge. Teams like the New York Giants utilized this approach with Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott. Presently, the Carolina Panthers have gone the two-back route with the pair of DeAngelo Williams and James Stewart. The Buffalo Bills also boast a pair of runners that split the load with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
Locally, the Tamaqua Blue Raiders football squad is setting a new precedent, at least at the high school level.
The Raiders not only depend on one or two backs, they can depend on three or four. Dalton Nunemacher, Jake Love, Tyler Hope, and Nolan Ziegler have all saw their fair share of touches this season. A strategy that has Tamaqua off to a 6-0 start and at the top of the Anthracite Football League.
"We have certain plays for the strengths of each individual back that we use," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "With Nunemacher we use him a lot in the power game and on reverses, Love is our steady tailback that runs good in between the tackles, Hope is our big play guy where we use a lot in the pistol scheme and when we run sweeps, and Nolan is great in short-yardage situations. We show a lot of formations and we like to spread the ball around to these guys. They just do a great job of running the football and most importantly holding onto the football."
Bonner and his staff have definitely taken advantage of the stable of Raider runners. Tamaqua is averaging 296 yards on the ground per game this season with Nunemacher leading the way with 504 yards. Nunemacher is also doing a great job at receiver, catching 13 balls for 320 yards. The senior also leads the TN area in scoring with 15 total touchdowns. Jake Love is the other every down back for Tamaqua rushing for 469 yards and five scores on the year. Tyler Hope is a game-changer type back and has rushed for 355 yards and is averaging a ridiculous 12 yards per carry. Then throw in a short-yardage back in Nolan Ziegler, who has amassed 135 yards and three touchdowns and it's not hard to see why the Raiders are still unbeaten.
"Obviously we have some advantages when it comes to having this many talented guys to run the football," said Bonner. "Like most AA schools we have a lot of guys go both ways so when we can spread the ball around with success it gives guys breaks here and there. We always want our guys to still be able to feel fresh and run the football hard in the fourth quarter. With the guys we have a lot of the time we're able to do that."
ALL THE WAY... The Marian Colts did something this past Friday night they haven't done in a long time. They returned a kickoff for a touchdown when John Julian took it 89 yards for the score. It was the first time a Colt returned a kickoff since September 10, 2004 when Vito Digilio went 80 yards on the opening kick against Schuylkill Haven.
STILL UNBEATEN... Tamaqua has gotten off to a great start this going 6-0 for the first time since 1956. The 1962 Raiders got off to a similar start and didn't lose a game the rest of the season, but had a tie in their fifth game. The last and only time a Tamaqua team went undefeated without a loss or a tie was in 1927.
RIVALRY GAME... The Northern Lehigh vs. Northwestern football game this Friday night has gotten some outside attention this week. Jeff Fisher the originator of the Big Ticket now works for Fox Sports in California. He recently interviewed former Northern Lehigh head coach Jim Tkach regarding past players Bo Tkach (Northern Lehigh) and Brett Snyder (Northwestern) and the impact they had on the communities when they played there and presently. The interview also went into the closeness of the two communities. The interview can bee seen Thursday evening on www.highschoolfootballamerica.com. It will be broadcast nationwide and will talk about the game.