JT captures trench war
steve shinko/times news Jim Thorpe's Jon Fritz (27) carries the ball as Tamaqua's Matt Edmonds tries to make the tackle.
Smash Mouth football made a return to Jim Thorpe Friday night.
The host Olympians engaged in a battle of attrition with Tamaqua, with the edge in the trenches, and on the scoreboard, in Thorpe's favor.
Running back Shane Edwards (26 carries, 116 yards, 2 touchdowns) and quarterback Terry Moll (17-112) each went over the century mark on the ground as Thorpe earned an 18-13 Anthracite League victory on opening night.
The outcome was encouraging for the Olympians, who went 4-6 last season and are seeking a return to their winning ways.
"Physical football is back here," said Jim Thorpe Coach Mark Rosenberger. "We've been a finesse team the last couple of years, and we wanted to get back to the physical game.
"Our linemen did a good job of getting cracks for Shane and Terry, and they did a good job of running once they got in the open."
After surrendering an average of more than four TDs per game a year ago, the Thorpe defense showed some signs of returning to its Red Swarm form, particularly in turning away the Blue Raiders near the goal line on the opening drive of the second half.
"We were hot and cold defensively, but Tamaqua has kids that will give any defense fits," noted Rosenberger, referring to the Raider backfield of Grif Griffiths (11 carries, 74 yards), Jarred Muffley and QB Ryan Palsgrove. "We were able to bend and not break and make the plays we had to."
Thorpe took the opening kickoff and marched 67 yards to paydirt on 14 plays, capped by Edwards' three-yard run off the left side.
The Olympian front of center Dante Lynch, guards Tyler Mangold and Sean Leslie, tackles Wes Hurley and Cody Mann, and tight end Ben Moore averages 236 pounds and stymied the Raiders at the point of attack to provide the running room.
"We knew Jim Thorpe was a tough, physical team and big up front," said Tamaqua Coach Sam Bonner, whose club was 8-3 last year. "I felt we went blow by blow with them, but they chunked us for yardage off tackle. We have to make sure that we make the tackles when we have the opportunity to make them."
James Denny missed the point-after kick to keep it at 6-0, but Thorpe held the Raiders three-and-out in their first series, then drove 63 yards in six plays, with Edwards being pushed into the end zone from three yards out in what resembled a rugby scrum.
Moll was the engineer of that second TD, however, as he scrambled out of the shotgun formation for runs of 16 and 44 yards.
"Terry did a nice job leading us," praised Rosenberger. "He took us on his back at times and made things happen."
"It was all about the physicality tonight," said Moll. "We ran the ball hard and tried to make a statement with it."
The Raiders, who were missing fullback-linebacker Garth Lakitsky due to a knee ligament strain, trailed 12-0 but got back in contention when Muffley returned the kickoff 39 yards to the Thorpe 37 and Griffiths broke loose off the left end for a TD scamper. Lance Williams kicked the extra point to cut it to 12-7 with 1:07 left in the first quarter.
Neither side scored in the second stanza, but Thorpe gambled on an onside kick to start the second half, which backfired when the ball didn't roll 10 yards and was downed at midfield.
The Raiders advanced to the Thorpe 10, but Palsgrove was stopped for a one-yard loss on fourth and four at the 10. The Olympians then took it 89 yards the opposite way, with P.J. Johnson splitting through a pair of defenders at the 20 en route to a 33 yard TD run that widened the Thorpe edge to 18-7 with 11:19 remaining.
Tamaqua fought back as Muffley capped a 60-yard drive with a one-yard TD plunge with 5:49 left.
The Raiders had one final gasp, getting the ball back on their 20 with 1:33 left, but Moore sacked Palsgrove on fourth down to seal the Olympian win.