If you purchased a ticket to the opening night of high school football yesterday evening at Olympian Stadium then you most certainly got a bargain.
Jim Thorpe and Tamaqua left it all out on the field Friday night putting on a show that saw Tamaqua prevail in the final act of the evening. The Raiders forced the Olympians into six turnovers en route to a 34-29 Anthracite Football League victory.
The Raiders didn't waste any time getting down to business using their always potent rushing attack to gut the Olympians early. An opening 65-yard run by Jake Love set up a Love one yard plunge into the end zone to give Tamaqua a 6-0 advantage.
Jim Thorpe then fired back when Patrick Duvigneaud linked up with Khaaliq Lynch from three yards out to give Thorpe the lead 7-6. A 16-yard run from Mike Harleston and a 10 yard face mask penalty got the Olympians within scoring distance. On the next Olympians drive Duvigneaud threw a rocket across the middle of the Tamaqua defense finding a streaking Harleston, who was leveled in the end zone, but held onto the ball for the 30-yard score.
The Olympians were grooving, but Tamaqua picked up the intensity in the second quarter.
A Jake Love score, which was set up by a tough 24-yard run by Dalton Nunemacher and a 26-yard strike from Nate Edmonds to Nunemacher gave the lead right back to Tamaqua. The Raiders answered the bell all night long, and just when it looked like the Olympians might take over or even up the score the Raiders constantly shut the door.
"As a team I was real proud with the way we came out and played tonight," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "They had a couple opportunities tonight to go up two scores on us with great field position, but our defense made the plays for us tonight."
The Olympians did have opportunities to go ahead multiple times on the Raiders, but Tamaqua made the plays in the secondary in order to come away with the victory. Big play quarterback for the Olympians Duvigneaud showed the ability to throw the football, but the Raiders didn't make life easy on the senior, intercepting him five times on the evening.
The most costly of all the turnovers came with 2:17 left in the third with the Olympians up 21-18 and going in from their own 14 yard line, Duvigneaud had his pass across the middle tipped and waiting with open arms was Nunemacher, who took it back 96 yards for the touchdown. Duvigneaud was then picked off on the Olympians next possession and Tamaqua took advantage when Tyler Hope took a hand off around the left side of the JT defense for an 80-yard scamper to the end zone. A 16-point swing in a little under three minutes put Tamaqua up 34-21 heading into the fourth.
"Dalton had a human highlight reel kind-of a night," said Bonner. "His interception return was the turning point for us and then Tyler Hope, who has been banged up gave us a great burst there. It was a real big play in the game for us when Dalton took that interception all the way and it's the kind-of plays our defense made all night."
The Olympians actually had a chance to win the game when Duvigneaud made a human highlight reel of his own breaking about 10 tackles and scoring with 1:53 left in the game. JT then stopped the Raiders on the following drive to set up a scoring run with about 50 seconds remaining. Duvigneaud and the offense couldn't get anything going however and the Raiders escaped Olympian Stadium with the AFL victory.
"I'm very proud of the kids and the way they fought tonight, they fought the entire way, but it's still a very tough loss," said Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger. "We talked about all week not letting up the big play and the big run and we did that at times tonight as long as turning the ball over. There are still a lot of positives we can take away from tonight, the kids fought hard, and you have to credit Tamaqua for making the big plays down the stretch that won them the football game."