Tamaqua 'D' stands out
bob ford/times news Tamaqua's Nick Hollenbach (left) and Tyler Hope (right) combine to bring down Marian's Dylan Quirk. (44).
The Tamaqua offense has been the talk of the Anthracite Football League this season and deservingly so with its fantastic play up to this point.
There was another unit besides the Raiders also receiving a lot of attention in the AFL this season and that was the Marian defense. The Colts "D" has been dominant, letting up just seven points per game, while holding opponents to 154 yards of total offense per contest.
Marian's defense has been aggressive, they've been fast, and they've been smothering.
However, it wasn't Marian's defense that shined in the chilly night air on Saturday evening. Instead, it was Raiders' defense that staked their claim on the title of best defensive unit in the Anthracite League, shutting down the Colts offense and taking home the AFL title.
"We knew coming in that Marian had a really tough and talented defense and it was going to be a definite challenge for us," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "We played well tonight, but we did leave some scoring opportunities on the field. That's a credit to the Marian defense because we couldn't convert, but the kids finished up the regular season real nicely and now it's time to move forward. Oh and by the way I think we have a pretty good defense too."
Coach Bonner's last statement couldn't be any truer.
The Raiders "D" has certainly been underrated this season and with the success of the Tamaqua offense and their 37 points per game it's easy to see why. The Tamaqua defense has been nothing but rock solid all year, holding teams to just below 200 yards per game. What's even more impressive than that statistic has been the Raiders ability to force turnovers. Going into their match-up with the Colts the Raiders were plus 19 in the turnover department. For those of you who don't know much about football plus 19 doesn't happen very often, but it seems this Tamaqua team is everything but ordinary.
They showed that on Saturday night holding the Colts to just 117 yards of total offense and most importantly a goose egg on the scoreboard.
"Our defense has been doing a great job all year," said Bonner. "This is our third shutout in a row and it's hard to name just one guy because everyone has been doing their part."
In the Raiders defensive scheme it's important that everyone does do their part. Tamaqua runs a gap control style defense in which every player must do their job and do it well. One guy missing an assignment or not fulfilling their responsibility and the Raiders defensive scheme doesn't work.
"We started out the season being one of those bend but don't break defenses, but now we've turned into an overall good defensive team," said Bonner. "We've been playing so well. We're definitely a little undersized, but our speed and athleticism makes up for it. Our kids do a good job flying to the football and it's good to be playing this well defensively heading into districts."
The Raiders goal of an undefeated season has been achieved and their mission of winning an AFL title has been accomplished. Next up are aspirations of a District 11 AA championship and the way the Tamaqua defense has been playing lately that certainly looks to be possible.