Blue Raiders give Bonner 100th victory as head coach
SALISBURY TOWNSHIP - As Sam Bonner shook off his coat, he wondered aloud about an unpleasant - and lengthy - ride home.
But Bonner will gladly trade any uncomfortable bus ride for more nights like this one.
Doused by his team on the sideline following Tamaqua’s 49-18 win over Salisbury Friday night, the Blue Raiders gave their coach his 100th career victory.
It was a milestone moment shared by everyone involved with the program, and one that showcased the steady progress the Blue Raiders have made through the first half of the season.
“We thought we took a good step forward last week,” Bonner said of a 38-15 loss to North Schuylkill. “It’s nice to say, but it’s still a loss. This week we said we wanted to come out, take care of business early. I thought our guys did a good job, came out right off the bat, came off a long bus trip and I thought played a heck of a first quarter, first half of football.”
Tamaqua (1-4) forced a three-and-out on the Falcons’ first drive, and needed just three plays to find the end zone, with Bradley Whalen carrying all three times and going in from 17 yards out. Luke Kane hit Damon Sell for the two-point conversion to make it 8-0 less than three minutes into the game.
Kane scored on the Blue Raiders’ next drive, and Whalen added his second touchdown of the first quarter, this time from nine yards out, to make it 22-0 with 2:24 remaining.
Whalen, who missed the last few weeks with an injury, carried the ball eight times for 81 yards - all in the first quarter.
“Bradley Whalen, he runs the ball tough,” Bonner said. “I think he gave us a spark on our first offensive drive. But he’s also our nose guard, and he plays tough there. He’s quick off the ball.”
Tamaqua spread the ball around during the first half, with a total of four different players scoring.
Tyler Koch’s 26-yard score made it 29-0 with 11:39 to play in the second quarter. Damon Sell cashed in on the Raiders’ next series, going in from one yard out to make it 35-0 with 8:46 to play in the half.
CJ Walker (18 carries, 61 yards) punctuated Tamaqua’s final drive of the first half with a one yard TD run to push the lead to 41-0 with 2:02 remaining.
The Raiders were happy to spread the wealth - and get the win for Bonner.
“It felt good to get the 100th win for Coach B. Felt real good,” Whalen said. “It feels good to be back. It feels like we got some good chemistry going.”
Tamaqua kept Salisbury (0-5) in check, allowing 10 yards (negative nine rushing) and one first down, which came on a pass interference penalty with 0.7 seconds to play in the first half.
“The defense did an amazing job keeping that ball away from them,” Whalen said. “Absolutely amazing. They gave it to the offense and they could run it down (the field) the entire time.”
The Falcons found the end zone in the second half when Jamanni Cruz scored from 12 yards out on their first possession to make it 41-6. Jacob Bucchin plunged into the end zone from a yard out on the next drive to make it 41-12.
Tamaqua’s final scoring drive covered 61 yards and ended when Chase Serfass powered into the end zone from a yard out. Walker added the two-point conversion to make it 49-12 with 2:15 to play in the game.
BACK IN ACTION
... In addition to Whalen, Tamaqua also got back Declan Coleman and Matt Welsh, a pair of players who made an instant impact. “Declan Coleman, he’s a two-way guy going into it. We kind of took it easy on him just played him at tight end,” said Bonner. “I thought he did a really good job blocking for us at tight end. He’s probably one of our better blockers that we have. Matty Welsh is another guy that started the season as a starting guard, we’re kind of easing him back into it and he got to play some guard for us tonight. It was nice to have those three guys dressed tonight.”
... After Serfass scored, Cruz returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a score for Salisbury.
... Playing with a healthy lead allowed Tamaqua to get several players significant experience Friday night. “Our JV guys, a lot of our young guys got reps in the second part of the game,” said Bonner. “It’s always nice for those guys to be able to go out and play on a Friday night. We got a lot of work with those young guys. This was a chance for them to get some experience.”
SPECIAL NIGHT ... Friday was Shirt off your Back Night at Salisbury. “Every player, every cheerleader, and every band member who is a senior selected somebody from this school district – there were middle school teachers, there were elementary school teachers, custodians – was recognized. Those are good things that we have going on,” said Falcons coach Andy Cerco.