Tamaqua's defense blanks Miners
MINERSVILLE - The Tamaqua defense doesn't have a catchy nickname, but maybe it's time to come up with one.
Big Blue Crush? Blue Blitz? Raider Swarm?
Nickname or not, the Raiders have definitely taken a "Blue Collar" approach that has paid off, with a defense that allows just 13.7 points per game and an area best 159.3 yards of total offense per outing.
The Raider D pitched its second shutout of the season Friday night, limiting host Minersville to just 23 yards rushing and 91 yards of offense in earning a 28-0 Anthracite League victory.
Tamaqua, which is now 7-2 (5-2 league) and had clinched its first-ever District 11 Class AA playoff berth heading into this week, shook off last week's loss to Panther Valley by handling the Battlin' Miners (1-8, 1-6) from the start.
After coming up empty in three trips to the red zone in the 20-2 setback to the Panthers, the Raiders scored touchdowns the first two times they had the ball, and they didn't need much more than that, thanks to another "Blue Blanking" by the defense.
"Outside of a couple of pass plays, our defense continued to play tough," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "A lot of guys contributed. It's not just a one-man show. A lot of them are making plays on defense."
Eric James had a pair of sacks of Minersville quarterback Cole Weachock, and Grif Griffiths added one from his linebacker post. Garth Lakitsky once again led the way in tackles, getting in on an unofficial eight hits.
On offense, the Raiders used a punishing power ground game and some timely passes from QB Ryan Palsgrove to wide receiver Anthony Bumbulsky to maintain drives and wear down the Miners.
Griffiths carried the ball 21 times for 128 yards, scoring on runs of 38 and six yards, as well as adding a one-yard plunge for a third TD. Lakitsky banged his way to 56 yards rushing and Jarred Muffley chipped in 47 yards and a TD.
Muffley got the Raiders on the board on their first series of the game, rambling 27 yards on a counter trey to paydirt. Lance Williams booted the first of four extra points for a 7-0 lead.
On the Raiders' next possession, Lakitsky gashed the Miners on a 29 yard burst to set up a 38 yard scoring scamper by Griffiths, who finished the game just eight yards short of the 1,000 yard mark this season.
A penchant for penalties (8 for 80 yards for the game) kept the Raiders from adding to their advantage in the first half, despite a 225-8 advantage in yardage.
"We obviously weren't satisfied with the penalties and stuff we were doing in the first half," said Bonner. "We only had two scores on the board. Not to take anything away from Minersville, but we should have finished things off."
The Miners received the second half kickoff but were backed up in their own end when the Raiders' Pete Conforti blocked a punt, which rolled dead on the one yard line. Griffiths did the honors from there to make it 21-0 with 9:45 left in the third quarter.
"It makes it a little easier to have a one-yard drive to punch it in," said Bonner. "Pete's a kid whose coming around after starting to play defensive end 3-4 weeks ago (in addition to his second year starting at center). He's only a sophomore, but he's starting to make plays at the position."
The Raiders' final score came on a 12 play, 54 yard drive that saw Palsgrove connect with Bumbulsky twice on passes of 29 and 15 yards to set up Griffiths' six-yard TD with 10:46 left.
"The effort's there, and we are playing hard, no question about it," said Minersville coach Pat Mason. "It's just not good to have a down year in this league any year."