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Palmerton fights off Tamaqua

Palmerton weathered the storm early in the first quarter against a hot Tamaqua team on Friday and went on to post a 34-14 victory, clinching the Colonial-Schuylkill Red Division title in the process.

An 88-yard pick six by the Raiders’ Damon Sell on Palmerton’s first offensive possession would give them a 6-0 lead.

Tamaqua would then follow its big defensive score with an onside kick, which it recovered. The recovery gave the Raiders the ball at the Palmerton 46-yard line with a one score lead at the 9:59 mark of the first quarter.

“Our kids executed very well in the first half. The pick six by Damon (Sell) was huge. That was big for us starting the game off like that,” said Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner. “Then recovering the onside kick. That gave us some early momentum.

“Our guys just played very tough. The score tonight, I don’t think tells the story of how tough we played.”

Palmerton was able to answer the early adversity by scoring 14 unanswered on its next two possessions.

Ty Sander would take the ball 59 yards to the house on the first play of the Bombers’ second possession. Palmerton then got its screen game going on its third possession. A 33-yard screen pass from Matt Machalik to Sander would help setup an eventual Machalik five-yard rushing score to make it 14-6.

“First off, credit to Tamaqua. They did a great job and had a great game plan tonight,” said Palmerton head coach Chris Walkowiak. “Fighting through adversity, that’s what tonight was all about.

“I’m proud of our guys for not flinching and going out there and making plays and ultimately getting the job done.”

Tamaqua would even up the score at 14-14 in the second quarter on a nice throw from Luke Kane to Victor Schlosser for a 14-yard score with 7:49 remaining in the half. Kane evaded a free rusher and then found an open Schlosser in the middle of the end zone.

Palmerton though, would once again come up with an answer on a 32-yard strike from Machalik to Bryce Marino on a slant pass that capped off a nine play 54-yard drive with 3:29 left in the half. The Marino reception would give the Bombers a 20-14 halftime lead.

The Bombers’ defense would come up with two huge stops in the third quarter.

Palmerton turned Tamaqua away from a score on a fourth-and-goal play from the one, stopping the Raiders’ rusher at about the half yard line. It then halted another Tamaqua scoring drive later in the third quarter. From their own 42, the Raiders would drive it all the way down to the Palmerton five-yard line thanks in large part to a 54-yard screen pass from Kane to Tyler Koch. A few tough stands from the Bombers “D” and a Tamaqua personal foul penalty, would make it a fourth-and-goal from the 23-yard line. The fourth down play would result in an interception as neither team would be able to put any points on the board in the third.

“They were really able to change the momentum with those two big defensive stands in the third quarter. The one that really killed us was the one where we had a few chances from the one and we couldn’t get it in,” said Bonner. “Then we’re able to get a stop and we create another red zone opportunity but a penalty killed that drive for us.

“So, two red zone trips in the third and we didn’t come away with any scores. That hurt us.”

Two big plays by Machalik in the fourth quarter would then give the Bombers the breathing room they were looking for. Machalik rushing touchdowns from 20 and 67 yards out would make it a 34-14 game with 4:55 play. Tamaqua would run just seven plays in the fourth quarter, resulting in a punt and a turnover on downs.

“At the half, we said, ‘hey, we’re up 20-14. You keep them at 14, and we win the game,’ said Walkowiak. “So, that was our goal. We had the two big goal line stands and then we were able to gain some momentum and the offense started to click for us in the run game.”

THE RECORDS … The Bombers improve to 9-0 and stay in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the District 11 3A power ratings. Tamaqua falls to 4-5, and looks to be locked into the No. 6 seed in Class 3A.

RUSHING RECORD … Machalik set another Bombers record on Friday, surpassing the single-season rushing yards mark. Machalik needed 96 yards to break the record and he finished with 196 yards on 16 carries, scoring three rushing touchdowns. He now has 1.793 rushing yards on the season.

Palmerton's Matt Machalik (left) tries to break free from the grasp of Tamaqua's Landen Tringone (50). RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS