Thorpe blanks Mahanoy
It's one thing to know what to do.
It's another thing to actually do it.
Opponents of Mahanoy Area this season are fully aware that in order to beat the Golden Bears they have to stop quarterback Dylan Mahmod.
And while many have tried, none have succeeded.
That is, until Friday night.
With first place in the Anthracite League up for grabs, Jim Thorpe's defense made a statement by shutting down the talented senior and shutting out the Bears by a 26-0 score.
The victory lifts the Olympians to 6-0 in the AFL and alone on top of the league standings.
"All the teams up to this point have probably had a similar gameplan in trying to stop their quarterback, but no one has been able to do it," said Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger. "The reason we were able to do it ... is because our defenders came out and executed the plan to perfection. Credit goes to those kids. They played tremendous and with passion for 48 minutes. It was just an outstanding defensive performance.
"It was assignment football. When you play an option team, you have to play assignment football and our kids were able to execute ... We were focusing our D-line and D-tackles on taking care of the dive back and were freeing our D-ends and linebackers to focus on the quarterback."
The reason for all the attention on Mahmod is because of the gaudy numbers he has produced so far this season. In leading his team to a 6-0 start, the Mahanoy signal-caller enetered the contest with over 1,200 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
Against the Olympains, though, he could only muster seven yards rushing in the first half. He ended the contest with just 34 yards on 17 carries.
"We focused on him," said Thorpe linebacker Kevin Vitti. "We saw he likes to go to the B-gap a lot ... All three linebackers were to key on him and be responsible for the B-gap. Last week we got our first shutout and in practice this week we knew we wanted to get another one. We gave it our all on defense tonight and we got that other shutout."
Unfortunately for the Olympians, their own offense was also being shut out for most of the first half. Despite moving the ball and having opportunities, they couldn't get in the end zone.
A break on special teams, however, lit a spark for Thorpe (6-1 overall) in the second quarter. Antonio Madera recovered a fumble on a punt in Mahanoy territory. Six plays later, Ryan Saunders broke free for a 21-yard touchdown run to give the host team a 6-0 lead with 3:20 left until halftime.
After a quick three-and-out by the Olympian defense, Saunders hit Ryan Carroll with a long pass. That set up another Saunders scoring run, this one from 34 yards away, to build the advantage to 14-0 with 1:19 until the break.
The margin grew even more moments later. Carroll intercepted a pass and gave Thorpe another great scoring chance. Saunders (28 carries, 232 yards) capitalized by tossing a seven-yard TD pass to Deonte St. Hill on fourth and goal with two-tenths of a second left.
"We sensed (Mahanoy's) frustration early in the game but my concern was we had opportunities to score and we didn't," said Rosenberger. "And with their explosive offense, they could be frustrated one play and the next thing they could be up 7-0. I was concerned about them making a big play and momentum changing. Fortunately our defense never allowed that to happen.
"We had some momentum early moving the football and we were able to keep that going."
Mahanoy Area, on the other hand, could never get anything going.
With their running game stymied, the Bears were forced to throw and that didn't go well either.
"We never want to be in the situation where we're throwing first," said Mahanoy mentor Dave Holman. "That's just not our offense. Our run sets up our pass and tonight they did a good job of taking us out of that. It seemed like we just couldn't get in our rhythm.
"The reason they are where they are is because of their defense. They've scored points, that's never been their problem. Defensively they were behind it a bit but this year they're playing phenominal."
That defense didn't allow the Bears to reach Thorpe territory until midway through the fourth quarter, after the Olympians tacked on another score.
"We had no lulls defensively and we moved the ball on offense," said Rosenberger. "I thought if we came to play the way we're capable of playing we could win this game and we did it."