After an undefeated season a year ago, expectations were high for the Blue Raiders this football season. However, with an upstart Jim Thorpe team handing them a loss in Week One, shockwaves were sent through those pre-emptive assumptions, leaving fans second guessing this year's squad's abilities.
Those fans can rest easy now, as last night Tamaqua showed signs of brilliance in handing William Allen a 21-0 shutout and returning to the win column by way of some big plays and solid all-around play by their Blue and White team in Week Two.
"We really thought it was important to establish our running game this year," Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner admitted afterwards. "We are typically a running team. Tonight, we did accomplish that goal and with the running game established, it opened up opportunities for our passing game as well."
Early on, Tamaqua consistently pounded the ball up the middle and around both ends, as they moved the ball well. However, some miscues and turnovers thwarted their chances to cash in, and a quarter and a half led to a scoreless tie.
That's when things started to settle down and the Blue Raiders' gameplan began to kick in. With 5:15 on the clock in the second, Tamaqua got the ball on their own 20 and took the ball 80 yards to paydirt for the initial score of the night, with 11 ticks left on the board. The drive was 14 plays long, saw the offense trudge for four first downs, and ate up over five minutes of the first half clock. It ended with a 20-yard scoring pass from QB Nate Edmonds to Austin Miorelli.
"We worked hard all week on getting things in order and there were a couple big plays tonight by our guys to help pull out this win," Bonner reiterated.
On their next possession in the third quarter, Tamaqua went 63 yards on six plays for another score, as Ernie Shilko maneuvered in for a 33-yard run. Shilko's two blockers were sweeping around the left side, when Shilko spotted an opening up the middle, created some room and was off to the end zone for the insurance score. After Dustin Vandermartin's extra point, the winners increased their lead to 14-0 with 6:40 remaining in the third.
Vandermartin not only contributed his skills on those PATs, but he began the fourth session with a 75-yard scoring reception up the left sideline for yet another TD to ensure the win for his team.
"We still don't have a fully healthy team yet this season," Vandermartin said after the game. "We're hoping to get everybody back for next week, because we're going to have to keep working hard the rest of the season."
With the win, Tamaqua pulls even at 1-1 and is looking to continue to stay in the win column as the weeks roll by.
"We didn't want to focus on last year's achievements," Shilko mentioned. "We knew this year was a new year and a new opportunity to show what we can do."
With some familiar names from last year still making plays, along with some new names emerging into the limelight, look for this year's Blue Raider team to make their own mark on scholastic football and make their own identity in the process.