Spartans hold off Tamaqua
Tamaqua's margin for error is razor thin.
The Raiders are without a couple of key starters and have a few more players that are limited because of injuries.
Friday night, Tamaqua showed it still has enough talent to compete with one of the top teams in the Anthracite Football League.
But the Raiders also showed how delicate their balance can be between winning and losing.
In the end, Tamaqua left too many points on the field and dropped a 21-14 decision to North Schuylkill.
"Missed opportunities. That's been the story of our season," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "We had a nice drive and fumbled the ball away inside their 10-yard line, we had a couple of long pass plays that could have been touchdowns, and we had a chance to get their offense off the field at the end of the game. In all of those situations, we just didn't make a play.
"We are a little limited because of injuries right now. That makes taking advantage of opportunities even more critical than normal and we failed to do that tonight."
Tamaqua played the game without Dustin Vandermartin and Ernie Shilko and with Tyler Hope and Collin Moyer at less than 100 percent.
North Schuylkill never trailed in the game as it took the opening kickoff and drove 68 yards for a score. Austin Hummel got the touchdown from four yards out.
Tyler Hope answered with a 47-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to put Tamaqua (3-3) on the board but the Spartans used an 11-yard TD run by quarterback Bobby Grigas and a 30-yard pass from Grigas to Tevin Murray to take a 21-6 halftime lead.
"It wasn't a perfect game by any means," said North Schuylkill coach Wally Hall. "But we made the plays when we needed.
"I thought we did a nice job offensively in the first half. But I wasn't as happy with our second half performance. We had a few chances to open up some breathing room and we failed to capitalize."
North Schuylkill (4-2) started three third-quarter drives inside the Tamaqua 35-yard line, but the Raider defense denied them every time to keep the outcome in doubt.
Those defensive stands became even more crucial when Tamaqua recovered a fumble deep in Spartan territory with just under five minutes remaining in the game. On the first play from scrimmage, Nate Edmonds hit Hope with a swing pass. Hope broke several tackles, crossed the field, and outran the final defender into the corner of the end zone. Hope then added the two-point conversion to make it a one possession game with 4:22 remaining.
"I think one bright spot for us tonight was the play of our defense in the second half," said Bonner. "Until that last drive, I thought we did a great job."
The last drive that Bonner referred to turned out to be crucial.
After picking up one first down, the Spartans found themselves facing a third-and-10 call from their own 33-yard line.
Hummel took a pitch and was able to get just enough yardage to move the sticks and allow North Schuylkill to run out the clock.
"We had a chance to get the ball back at the end," said Bonner. "I thought that was the game's most crucial play.
"We had them in a third-and-long situation, but they got on the perimeter. I thought we might have stopped them a little short, but evidently their back got just enough yardage to pick up the first down."
North Schuylkill's Hall said the first down run by Hummel was huge.
"I thought we played well defensively, but Hope is such a great athlete, that you can never relax," said Hall. "He breaks some tackles on that short pass and all of a sudden it's anyone's game.
"Fortunately, our offense came through when we needed them to at the end. On that big conversion, Hummel did a nice job of reading his blocks and turning it upfield. We needed that because you don't want to give Tamaqua's offense another chance in a one possession game."
Tamaqua never got that one chance at the end. But it did have several chances earlier that it didn't capitalize on and when your margin for error is razor thin that usually means the difference victory and defeat.