Spartans hand JT first loss
ASHLAND - Something simply had to give when Jim Thorpe's immovable force met North Schuylkill's irresistible object.
The Olympians entered Friday night's Anthracite Football League showdown of undefeated teams having allowed just over eight points per game, while the Spartans were scoring an average of almost 40 points per contest.
The paradox indeed held true, as North Schuylkill kept its perfect season alive with a convincing 43-0 AFL win over Jim Thorpe.
Olympians' coach Mark Rosenberger was succinct in his assessment of his team afterwards.
"We got beat by a better football team," Rosenberger said. "They're a heck of a football team, so there's no shame losing to a better team.
"But the way we lost wasn't acceptable."
Jim Thorpe started strong, stopping the Spartans' (7-0, 6-0) vaunted offense on fourth-and-five at the Olympians' 45-yard line on its initial drive.
After a 44-yards pass from Ryan Carroll to quarterback Shane Snisky put Jim Thorpe (7-1, 6-1) inside the North Schuylkill red zone, the Olympians were unable to cash in, gaining only seven yards on their next three plays.
The drive resulted in a missed field goal and a failed opportunity to seize control of the game early, something Rosenberger reflected on afterwards.
"We had some momentum early on, stopping them on the first series," he said. "Then we had a big play to get to the nine-yard line, but we couldn't get it in.
"If we would have been able to get that momentum going early, it could have been a totally different game."
The defensive stand seemed to invigorate the North Schuylkill offense, which needed only three plays to go 80 yards on its next possession to take a 7-0 lead after Bobby Grigas found Tevin Murray in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown.
After going three-and-out on its next drive, the Spartans found their groove, scoring touchdowns on their next four possessions to take a commanding 36-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"The most important thing is that we just have to relax and be patient and get into a rhythm," said North Schuylkill coach Wally Hall. "As soon as we get into a rhythm offensively, we can both run and pass the ball effectively."
That balance was evident throughout the night, as the Spartans got touchdowns from four different players, highlighted by three scoring strikes from Grigas to Murray.
Tailback John Rupinski, who went over 1,000 yards rushing in last week's 53-21 win over Mount Carmel, also had a big game, rushing for over 150 yards on just 14 carries, with 13 of those touches coming in the first half.
"It's always tough to highlight one guy on this team," Hall said. "Obviously, the statistics do show what the guys accomplish. But it's a total team effort.
"They truly understand that, and whoever makes the plays makes the plays. But it's definitely a team effort. We just have a lot of guys that have played key roles in our success this season."
While the Spartans' offense was clicking, the defense more than held its own in limiting the Olympians to under 175 yards of total offense.
As North Schuylkill aims to keep its perfect record intact over the final two weeks of the regular season, Jim Thorpe will look to bounce back with two home games remaining.
"We have to regroup," Rosenberger said. "We'll see what we've got and we'll see what kind of character we have.
"We have to come back and be better this week. We have a huge game against Blue Mountain coming up and that's all we can worry about right now. We have to get ready for this week and hopefully we'll get it done."