In what has been the toughest season in Stan Dakosty's 34 years at the Marian helm, the Colts definitely saved their best for last.
When dark storm clouds and a pregame shower passed over Men of Marian Stadium Friday night, little did anyone know the silver lining of the Colts' campaign was to follow.
Marian put together its best performance of the season, dominating on both sides of the ball in a stunning 47-7 Anthracite League rout of visiting Tamaqua in the finale for both teams.
The victory snapped an eight-game slide by the Colts (2-8 overall, 1-7 league), the longest of Dakosty's tenure, and proved once again that anything is possible in a backyard rivalry game, as the Blue Raiders (3-7, 3-5) entered on a two-game win streak, outscoring its opponents 78-13.
Using the pinpoint passing of sophomore quarterback Corey Quick and the slashing runs of junior Paul Martin, Marian scored on its first three possessions and never looked back.
Defensively, Marian contained the Raiders' potent rushing attack, and while senior Grif Griffiths gained 126 yards on 20 carries, the Colts came up with a goal line stand when it counted.
"What you saw was eight weeks of frustration from a team that was bruised and battered but never quit," said Dakosty. "Our kids played with a lot of passion, heart and great enthusiasm. Our coaching staff never gave up on them. Tonight, we hit on all cylinders."
That begs the question, where was this Marian team all season? Part of the answer is that the Colts have been riddled with injuries to key performers such as Martin, a 1,000 yard rusher a year ago who returned with a vengeance last night.
Martin was responsible for 250 yards of the Colts' 419 yards of total offense, rushing 21 times for 176 yards and scoring on runs of one, 80 and 22 yards, as well as catching two passes for 74 yards and a TD.
"You saw tonight what a healthy Paul Martin can do," said Dakosty.
The Colts took the opening kickoff and marched 73 yards to paydirt in eight plays. Quick hit Martin for a 34-yard scoring strike, and the first of Martin's five conversion kicks made it 7-0 with 8:29 left in the first quarter.
Marian gave up a Griffiths 10 yard run on the Raiders' first play from scrimmage but stiffened from there, forcing a punt.
Quick then found senior wideout Dominick Richards on the sideline, and the 6-6 Richards hauled in the pass and raced 62 yards to extend the lead to 14-0.
"Our game plan was to isolate people and take advantage of the match-ups with our bigger players," said Dakosty. "Corey also had time to throw and was only sacked once."
Quick hit on all six of his pass attempts in the first quarter for 171 yards, which opened things up for the ground game and put the Raiders in a catch-up mode.
"Coming in, I was worried about their passing game, and they took advantage of breakdowns in our secondary," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "We didn't get pressure on Quick and got down 14-0, then 21-0. That took us out what we wanted to do.
"You have to give credit to Marian. They bounced back after a tough eight weeks," added Bonner.
A 40-yard Quick to Martin connection helped set up a one-yard Martin TD plunge to make it 21-0 with 9:40 left in the second quarter.
Griffiths broke loose on a 59 yard run to the Colts' 6 on the Raiders' next series, but he was stopped one yard short of the end zone on fourth and goal from the five.
Martin later went coast-to-coast on an 80 yard run to make it Marian 27-0 at half.
Any thought of a Raider rally in the second half was quickly squelched by Evan Bellizia, who intercepted a pass to set up a Quick one-yard TD run to make it 33-0. Another Martin TD at the 2:20 mark of the third kicked in the mercy rule at 40-0.
Tamaqua finally salvaged a score when QB Nate Edmonds hit Nolan Zeigler on a 47 yard TD pass with 48 seconds left in the third.
A six-yard run by Damian Richards capped the scoring for the Colts with 1:25 remaining in the game.