By SHAWN MCFARLAND
It will be a story of two different offenses when the Indians host the Blue Raiders Friday night in Lehighton.
Whereas Tamaqua pounded it on the ground 50 times last week in a 21-point victory over Jim Thorpe, Lehighton tossed it around 26 times against Marian even with its fourth-string quarterback leading the way. Although it is only Week 2, both coaches acknowledged that their game-plans will probably remain the same for the rest of the season.
"We are a run-first team," confirmed Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner. "We work on some passing stuff, but if we don't need to use it then we won't. We have a very strong offensive line and a stable of running backs. We feel that if we can run the ball well then we are going to be successful. We are going to do what we do."
Jarred Muffley led the Raiders' ground attack last week with 140 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Juniors Nolan Zeigler (71 yards) and Dalton Nunemacher (44 yards) each recorded a touchdown as well. Tamaqua totaled 325 rushing yards for the game. Meanwhile, quarterback Matt DelBorrello threw just once and completed it for a 16-yard gain.
That is not good news for the Indians considering they allowed Paul Martin and Marian to rack up 345 yards rushing in the season opener.
"Obviously we want to try and stop the run, but that is a lot easier said than done," said Lehighton head coach George Ebbert. "They ran the ball 50 times last week and seem very run-heavy. It will turn into a long night if we can't stop the run."
On the flip side, Lehighton prefers to throw the ball. The Indians' aerial attack has gotten better in each of the three seasons with Ebbert at the helm. They were second in the TIMES NEWS area in passing (1,543) last year after finishing third (1,292) in 2009.
Ebbert and the Indians found out two days before last week's game that their starting quarterback, Josh Agosto, would be sidelined for some time with an elbow injury. The team's second and third-string quarterbacks were also out, leaving tailback Anthony Farole to start under center. Farole performed admirably and threw for 214 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He looks to be the starter again this week. Regardless of who does start, the Indians are likely to throw the ball.
"That's our style," Ebbert said. "I would like us to run the ball a little better, but you go with what works. Farole will have a full week of practice now, so I expect him to do just as well.
"Last week we played hard and lost a close one without a quarterback basically. We threw Farole in and he did well. The kids saw what we can do and everyone has stayed positive."
Wide receiver Jon Strauss had a big game, as he finished with five receptions for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow receiver Jacen Nalesnik also hauled in a 61-yard touchdown. Farole even found the time to catch one ball. So while the Indians picked up just 24 yards on 24 carries on the ground, they did manage to throw for 235 yards with their running back.
"They have a lot of weapons between Nalesnik, Strauss and (Billy) Angst," said Bonner. "They spread it out and like to get the ball to their play-makers - usually on the outside. They can all make plays.
"We have spent some time on different coverages. Our secondary knows they are in for some work. The key for us will be to get some pressure on their quarterback. We can't allow them to have a lot of time to find their weapons."
Lehighton knocked off Tamaqua 27-18 last year and is 8-3 versus the Blue Raiders since 2000. The Raiders won consecutive match-ups in 2008 and 2009, but it was their first wins over the Indians since 2003.
"It's one of those back-yard games," said Ebbert. "I expect it to be a good game no matter what. It will be a dog-fight."
"We are going to have our hands full," Bonner added. "Lehighton lost a tough one last week, so we know they will be looking to bounce back."