Raiders blank Bears to stay unbeaten
MAHANOY CITY - Tamaqua's opening drive of the game against Mahanoy Area came up short on fourth down at the Golden Bears' 21 yard-line.
That turned out to be one of the few times the Blue Raiders were stopped, as they scored on eight of their next nine possessions to roll to a 55-0 Anthracite League victory Friday night at Alumni Field.
The triumph improved Tamaqua to 4-0 (3-0 league) for the first time since the 1962 Eastern Conference championship season.
The Raider defense produced another outstanding effort, holding the Golden Bears to 110 yards of total offense and forcing six turnovers.
Mahanoy Area didn't cross midfield until its last drive of the game, when it advanced 58 yards to the Tamaqua 12 as time expired.
After rallying past Shenandoah Valley in the final minute the previous week, Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner was hoping the Raiders wouldn't overlook the winless Bears (0-4 overall and league), who are under the guidance of a new coach in Wally Hall.
"Our motto all week was to come up here, not have a letdown and do what we had to do," said Bonner. "We came out and had a good first drive going, but we got stopped on fourth and one. After that, we finished off drives, which is something we need to do."
Junior linebacker Garth Lakitsky got the ball back for the Raiders when he intercepted a Mike Backo pass and returned it nine yards to the Mahanoy 25.
Two plays later, Raider junior quarterback Ryan Palsgrove, who is Backo's cousin, hit junior Mike Streisel on a play action pass for a 25 yard TD.
A fumble caused the conversion try to fail, keeping the score at 6-0 Tamaqua at 5:16 of the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, Raiders' senior Erik Krause sacked Backo and jarred the ball loose, with senior tackle Dakota Krapf recovering on the Bears 30. Seven plays later, Lakitsky bulled his way into the end zone from two yards out. Lance Williams' PAT kick was blocked by Josh Kimmel, keeping the score 12-0 Tamaqua.
On the next play from scrimmage, Lakitsky struck again, stripping the pigskin from Backo on the Bears 30 and returning it five yards to set up a 25 yard scoring toss from Palsgrove (5-for-10, 80 yards) to senior wideout Anthony Bumbulsky. Palsgrove added the two-point conversion on a keeper to make to 20-0.
Junior running back Grif Griffiths, who finished with 101 yards on 17 carries, scored on a three-yard TD run to cap a 10 play, 64 yard march as the half ended with Tamaqua on top 27-0. Williams booted the first of five straight PATs.
Krapf recovered another fumble on the Bears 23 on the first series of the second half, leading to a Palsgrove five-yard TD run. The Raiders also got an interception from Kyle Boyer and a fumble recovery from Anthony Iacoviello during the half.
"Our defense has been doing the job, flying around the ball, and the ball was on the ground a lot tonight," noted Bonner.
Tamaqua tacked on a nifty 31 yard TD run by sophomore Jared Muffley, in which he outraced the entire Bears defense in cutting across the field, and scoring runs of two and 11 yards by freshman Jake Love during reserve duty.
"It was nice to get the younger guys some time, because they practice hard and you never know when you are going to need them," added Bonner.