MAHANOY CITY - It was a night of big plays for the Tamaqua Blue Raiders Monday evening at Alumni Stadium. The Raiders gutted the middle of the Bears defense multiple times and earned a big win for Coach Sam Bonner and Co., 25-18.
The Anthracite Football League contest which was postponed from Friday to Monday night due to rain was a battle from the start.
After both teams turned the ball over on downs on their opening drives, it was Mahanoy that struck first.
The Bears completed an 11-play 77-yard drive that was capped off by a Mike Gaval 16-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Baker. The Tamaqua defense stopped Gaval on a third and one rushing play, but Gaval rolled to his right on fourth down and found Baker in the end zone.
The Raiders first score came off one of their big running plays of the night as time expired in the first quarter with a 52-yard Dalton Nunemacher scamper up the seam.
"We wanted to get the ball into Dalton's hands tonight," said Bonner. "He has some speed and he does a great job running around the end for us."
The two then swapped touchdowns in the second quater with Tamaqua's work horse Jared Muffley plunging into the end zone for a score and Mahanoy's Gaval throwing another strike to Neal Goodman.
The third offered up more back in forth scoring from the two squads. Tamaqua drove the ball all the way down to the Bears ten yard line on their opening drive of the second half, but two mishandled snaps by Quarterback Matt Delborello and a sack from Mahanoy's Tyler Cavenas gave the ball back to the Bears.
Gaval took advantage connecting to a streaking Goodman up the middle for a 69-yard touchdown.
The Raiders then answered back with a big play of their own when Jared Muffley busted up the middle for a 60-yard score.
After forcing Mahanoy to punt early in the fourth quarter, the speedy Nunemacher fielded the ball at the Bears' 44 and raced down the sidelines where he was knocked out of bounds at the four. It took the Raiders three plays to get into the endzone with Tyler Hope bashing in from the one.
"We finally had all our running backs on the field tonight for us," added Bonner. "Hope, and Jake Love have been hurt for us for most of the year and it showed tonight that they are a big part of our football team. Muffley is obviously our work horse but these other guys (Hope, Love, Nunemacher) do well for us."
The Tamaqua defense did its job as well holding the Mahanoy rushing attack in check for the most part forcing the Bears to throw the ball an uncharacteristic 17 times. The Raiders also forced the Bears to turn the ball over on downs three times, including Mahanoy's last drive of the game.
"We wanted to make sure we had good penetration all night," said Bonner. "Mahanoy is a running team and we keyed on that so at times I think we bit up and they had some success passing the football. For the most part though our defense played well tonight."
Tamaqua improves to 2-2 (2-2 AFL) with the win. The Bears who had aspirations of a AFL title fall to 3-1 (3-1 AFL) with the loss.