SCHUYLKILL HAVEN – Rotary Field is the home of "smashmouth football."
But last night, Tamaqua took a page out of the Schuylkill Haven playbook and Jarred Muffley gave the Hurricanes a taste of their own medicine.
The 5-10, 159-pound senior did his best Zach Barket impression and carried the Raiders to a 26-14 Anthracite Football League victory over the host Hurricanes.
Muffley finished the night with 27 carries for 272 yards, including three touchdowns. He could have had well over 300 yards rushing but a 58-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter was negated by an offensive holding penalty. If it wasn't called back, Muffley's 330 rushing yards would have put him one yard shy of the Tamaqua single-game rushing record established by Jim Hope (331) in 1989.
"The kid's been working his tail off all year for us," lauded Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner. "It may not always show up in the stats, but he gets around five tough yards for us every time he touches the ball. Tonight was a big night for us, and an even bigger night for him."
Coming into the game, Muffley was averaging 96 rushing yards per game on 4.75 yards per carry. Tonight, he averaged 10.1 yards every time he touched the ball.
"I have to give a lot of credit to my offensive line, because those guys were really pushing the defense off the ball and opening up holes for me," stated Muffley. "I think we really did great tonight and I just ran my hardest and tried to take advantage of what my line was giving me."
Muffley wasted no time making his presence felt, as he carried the ball four times for 63 yards on the game's opening drive. He gave Tamaqua a 7-0 lead when he bolted in the end zone from one yard out.
On the Raiders' next possession, Muffley scooted down the sideline for what appeared to be a 58-yard scoring run, but it was called back on a 13-yard holding penalty, which resulted in a 71-yard swing in field position.
Following a Tamaqua punt, Josh Nemeth recovered a Schuylkill Haven fumble and after both teams exchanged punts, Muffley went back to work ... this time, a 67-yard touchdown run, which increased the Tamaqua lead to 13-0.
By halftime, Tamaqua had 276 yards of offense, 209 of which came off the legs of Muffley. Meanwhile, the Raiders held the Hurricanes to just 59 yards of offense in the first half and two first downs.
Tyler Hope upped the Tamaqua lead to 20-0 with a 33-yard touchdown run to open the third quarter.
Schuylkill Haven then went on a 15 play, 83 yard drive, which was capped off by Brandon Cooper's 8-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 20-7.
Following the touchdown, Tamaqua was flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (30 yards), which resulted in Schuylkill Haven kicking off from the Tamaqua 30-yard line. A successful onside kick attempt was recovered by Haven's Ian Hower and four plays later, Cooper found pay dirt a second time from nine yards out which closed the gap to 20-14.
"Unfortunately, things started to spiral on us in that second half," added Bonner. "We gave up a long drive, they got a score and then we made two boneheaded penalties. We gave them the opportunity to try an onside kick, which they converted, and before you know it, we go from a 20-0 lead to a one score game."
Taking over on their own 30-yard line, Tamaqua marched 70 yards in nine plays, aided by a Matt DelBorrello to Tyler Hope 19 yard connection on a third-and-seven to keep the drive alive. Muffley then finished things off with a 17-yard touchdown run (his third of the game) for the 26-14 victory.