Run meets pass on center stage
Heading into its matchup with Lehighton last week, Pleasant Valley's defense had to prepare for the Indians' aerial attack.
This week the Bears will have to get ready for the complete opposite, as Tamaqua's run-heavy offense comes to town.
It will be a case of the run versus the pass this Friday night, as Pleasant Valley hosts Tamaqua in the TIMES NEWS Game of the Week. Each team's offense ranks in the top two in the area in its respective strength and will be looking to exploit that strength this weekend. It could make for a high-scoring affair in Brodheadsville, as coincidently each team's strength is the other team's weakness.
"It's going to be interesting to see how that plays out," said Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner. "Pleasant Valley is all about the spread attack and we have seemed to struggle with that a little bit. Then for us, we are going to look to spread the ball around to our backs and run the ball. Some teams have been able to run against them and we are hoping we can do the same."
Pleasant Valley boasts the area's No. 1 passing attack with 583 yards. That number could have been a lot high considering the Bears threw for just 19 yards in last Friday's monsoon. Senior quarterback Troy Verway has made great strides since taking over week one for the injured pre-season starter in Brandon Leap. Verway has completed 54 percent of his passes and has thrown for five touchdowns thus far.
Meanwhile, Tamaqua's pass defense is second-worst in the area in terms of passing yards allowed with 544. After giving up a combined 152 passing yards through the first two weeks, the Raiders have since allowed 228 and 164 passing yards to Shenandoah Valley and Mahanoy Area respectively.
"Pleasant Valley has a lot of weapons," said Bonner. "They are going to spread us out and try to find their mismatches. It is important for us to keep them off the field. Hopefully we can either sustain some drives or use some big plays to put points on the board quickly."
On the flip side, the Bears will more than have their hands full with the Raiders' ground attack. The 'Land of Running Water' has become the 'Land of Running Backs,' as Tamaqua possesses five different backs all capable of busting off long runs. Jarred Muffley leads the way with 405 yards and five touchdowns on 82 carries (4.94 avg). Fellow backs Dalton Nunemacher (14-141, 10.07 avg), Nolan Zeigler (32-133, 4.16 avg), Tyler Hope (16-100, 6.25 avg) and Jake Love (9-67, 7.44 avg) have also shown the ability to pick up chunks of yards at a time. Quarterback Matt DelBorrello has even scampered 16 times for 62 yards (3.88 avg) and two scores. For the year, the Raiders have run the ball 170 times compared to just 33 pass attempts.
Pleasant Valley's run defense, or overall defense for that matter, has been rather porous so far this year. The Bears rank second-to-last in the area in total yards-per-game allowed (394.8) and third-to-last in total rushing yards allowed (872).
"Tamaqua is going to run it," Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger said. "They have a great offensive front and they have some backs that can burn. We have to be able to stop the run. In high school football, that is the case pretty much every game. For the first couple of weeks we haven't done a good job at that, but we have done a number of things to try and fix that.
"Yards don't really matter to me. It is whether they put points on the board. If a team runs up and down the field and has yardage - we will deal with those situations as we get there. But if we can keep the points off the board then we will be in any game that we play."
This Friday will already mark the midway point of the 2011 high school football season. Both teams are currently sitting at 2-2 and feel content with how they have progressed over the first five weeks of the season.
"The kids are excited coming off a big win, but we know we have to keep getting better," said Bonner. "We have been getting better every week and each week someone seems to play better. This week our secondary needs to step up and make some plays."
"I think that we are improving every week," Terwilliger said about his young squad. "Week one we went down to Nazareth and we said 'holy mackerel.' We lost 61-20 and now we were able to win a close game last week. We kept it close with Wyoming Valley West until the end. We are definitely better sitting here in week five than we were in week one."