AFL title is at play
It's safe to say that come Saturday the towns of Tamaqua and Hometown will most likely look like they've been abandoned.
That's because most of the town folk will all be in attendance at Men of Marian Stadium to witness one of the biggest clashes of all-time in the Marian and Tamaqua rivalry.
The Raiders are coming into the newly renovated Men of Marian Stadium on top of the Anthracite Football League standings and undefeated as well sitting at 9-0.
The Colts are 8-1, sitting right behind the Raiders in the AFL title race. Both teams have already clinched postseason berths, so this one is all about the AFL crown and of course some serious bragging rights.
"This is the kind of position you want your team to be in at this point in the season," said Marian coach Stan Dakosty. "Both teams have worked hard to get here and the players from both schools deserve this type of game."
Everybody who has been following high school football this season in the TIMES NEWS area knows what's at stake when the Colts and Raiders lace em' up on Saturday.
This is not only a match-up between two great teams, but two of the most single dominant units in the TN and District 11 area this season.
The Tamaqua offense has been putting up some pretty impressive numbers this season. They are second in total yards per game in the TN area, tallying 352.9 yards per contest and number one in scoring, putting up 38 points per game. Tamaqua's running game has been close to unstoppable as well with the Raiders rushing for 244 yards per game against the opposition in 2012. The Marian defense will have the challenging task of stopping Tamaqua's three-headed running attack. Dalton Nunemacher (751 rush), Jake Love (560 rush), and Tyler Hope (443 rush) are all very dangerous from the tailback position and can go the distance at any time. Nunemacher is also a threat from a receiving standpoint, catching 17 balls for 429 yards. Nunemacher has also been in the endzone a ton this season scoring a total of 23 touchdowns on the season.
The Tamaqua offense is good, but the Marian defense is no slouch either.
Actually, the Marian defense arguably has been more dominant this season then the Raiders "O." The Colts have only let up 154.8 yards per game of total offense this season. Marian certainly hasn't seen a rushing attack like the Raiders, but they haven't had any problems shutting down the run this season. They only let up 94 yards per contest, which is 150 yards under Tamaqua's season average. The Colts "D" is fast, athletic, and all 11 fly to the football on every possession. It will definitely be interesting to see which unit will come out on top come Saturday.
"Defensively they only give up about six or seven points a game, they're just really hard to get points on. They don't bend too much at all," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "Our offense has been playing well though and we've been scoring some points this season. I think we've scored over 120 some points over the last three weeks. We have a lot of weapons on offense and our defense has been playing well too, I think they're a very underrated bunch."
Coach Bonner is right about the Raiders' defense.They've been playing solid this season across the board, holding teams to just 195 yards of total offense on the year.
The Raiders have held opponents to just 3.1 yards per carry this season and the Colts have allowed just 2.8 per carry on the ground. With both team's offensive scheme revolving around the run game one could assume that rushing yards aren't going to come easy. The Raiders and Colts will have to bring a balanced offensive attack into this match-up and luckily for both squads each team's respective quarterback has been playing well.
"I feel like we've had a pretty balanced attack all year," said Dakosty. "Our run game has actually been struggling a bit this season, but when we've had trouble running the football our passing game has picked us up. That's important, and it's going to be even more important come Saturday. Tamaqua has a bunch of talent on defense as well and they will challenge us. Our kids have been getting better every week and our offense is clicking well heading into this game."
Coach Bonner also believes the passing game will have a big impact on the outcome of the game, as well as special teams, and of course which team can win the turnover battle.
"All year we've been really fortunate to come out on top in all of our games in the turnover battle and that's been key for us," said Bonner. "Special teams are big for us to and we've had an advantage in that aspect as well with Dalton's performance punting and returning kicks for us. Our passing game will be important for us to on Saturday. I talked to Nate and told him we're probably going to throw the football more this week than we have in previous weeks and he's ready for the challenge."
As noted, there's a ton at stake in this match-up, but the excitement both of these teams have brought to their respective towns through their success on the football field has been incredible.
"It's been about 50 years since Tamaqua has won a championship and even longer since they've been undefeated, so it's nice to be in this position and you can tell our kids appreciate it," said Bonner. "The community has been great and it's even greater to hear people talk about the game and the excitement surrounding the game."