ANNVILLE – A team can't ask any more of its offense than Tamaqua got Friday night.
The Raiders scored on their first eight possessions of the game. They took an early lead and added to it each time they got the ball until the mercy rule kicked in late in the third quarter of a 54-21 win over Annville-Cleona.
The undefeated Raiders ran the ball all over the outmatched Dutchmen, racking up 414 yards on the ground. They also sprinkled in three well-timed pass plays that all went for touchdowns.
"We've been thinking about starting 5-0 the whole season and it feels great," said running back Jake Love. "Our line did great."
Love led a backfield by committee, rushing 16 times for 146 yards and pair of touchdowns. Tyler Hope got 11 carries for 95 yards. He also caught a touchdown pass. Dalton Nunemacher ran for 44 yards on seven carries. He also caught two touchdown passes for 73 receiving yards.
Quarterback Nate Edmonds went 3 for 3 with 128 yards and three touchdowns. The fact that the Raiders can throw when they need to helps keep defenses from committing to heavily to stopping the potent running game.
"It definitely loosens them up," said head coach Sam Bonner. "We run the ball first. Nate has showed us over the last couple weeks that we're capable of stretching the field and going to the long ball."
The Raiders kept the ball on the ground for each of their first three possessions. Love ran 86 yards on the game's opening play, then scampered in from seven yards out for a 6-0 lead. The Dutchmen answered quickly, using a six-play drive to pay dirt to take a brief 7-6 lead.
Nunemacher got the next Raider touchdown, capping a six-play drive with a two-yard scamper.
Annville-Cleona, answered, but needed a fake punt to keep its drive alive and tie the score at 14-14.
After Nunemacher's kick off return gave Tamaqua good field position, it took just four plays before Love plunged in from three yards out to give the Raiders a 20-14 lead they would not relinquish.
Tamaqua's defense, led by nose guard Nick Hollenbach (five tackles for loss), forced two straight three and outs. Meanwhile, the offense kept rolling.
A seven-play drive capped by Hope's 27-yard touchdown catch made it 26-14. Another seven-play possession ended with Nunemacher's 24-yard touchdown reception for a 34-14 halftime lead.
"Once our defense made a couple stops," said Bonner. "Our offense got the feeling they weren't going to stop us. Once we settled in defensively, I think we took control of the game."
The Raider offense used six plays and a Dutchmen personal foul to go 50 yards for their first touchdown of the second half. Nolan Zeigler (four carries, 59 yards) ran it in from four yards out for a 41-14 lead.
Tamaqua went back to work after another three and out by Annville-Cleona, scoring on a two-play drive. Nunemacher caught a 73 yard pass from Edmonds to make it 48-14 with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
Dylan Houser's interception (the game's only turnover) set up the Raider's final touchdown. They went 58 yards in four plays, aided by two Dutchmen personal fouls. Zeigler capped the drive with a 29-yard run with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
Four different Raider backs had 44 or more yards. Five had four or more carries. Four different backs scored touchdowns in the game.
"With the number of good athletes we have," said Bonner. "We try to keep them fresh. We try to spread it around. I don't call a (player's) number, I call a play and the back that is in there gets the ball. It's nice that we can do that."
The Raiders offense looked unstoppable Friday. Every back that touched the ball seemed capable of breaking a big run. And the line gave them opportunities to do just that.
"We have a lot of skill players back and our linemen were busting their tails in the weight room in the offseason," said Nunemacher. "We had a lot of offseason lifting. It carried over into the season and its helping us out."
They take their 5-0 record into a big league game next week.
"We have great momentum from last game," said Nunemacher. "We've got to keep it going because we've got North Schuylkill coming up now."