Kane, Blue Raiders roll over Panther Vy.
Panther Valley decided to play the percentages.
But the completion percentage of Tamaqua quarterback Luke Kane ruined the Panthers’ game plan.
Kane completed 8 of 9 passes for 152 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Blue Raiders rolled to a 35-7 mercy-rule victory on Friday night.
“We felt like we needed to stop their run game and force them to beat us throwing the ball. We thought that gave us the best chance to win,” said Panther Valley coach Mark Lavine. “We put a couple extra people in the box and hoped our athletes could match up with their athletes on the perimeter.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of slowing down their run game, but give Kane credit. He made some big passes to beat our game plan.”
Kane’s touchdown passes came on Tamaqua’s first two possessions of the game. He hit Damon Sell with a quick pass in the flat that Sell turned into a 59-yard scoring play with 10:28 left in the first quarter, and then hit Vincent Schlosser with a 15-yard strike with :19 remaining in the quarter.
“We figured that Panther Valley would crowd the box to try to take away our run game, so we thought that would give us some opportunities in our pass game,” said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. “Luke did a nice job of taking advantage of that. He was really accurate with his throws tonight, and Damon (Sell) and Victor (Schlosser) did a nice job of catching the ball and making plays.”
Kane was also clutch with his throws as the touchdown pass to Sell came on a 3rd-and-10 play, while the scoring pass to Schlosser came on a 4th-and-10 play.
“For the most part, I thought we did a nice job on first and second down,” said Lavine. “But their third and fourth down conversions really hurt us.
“They had a bunch of conversions in that first quarter which put us in a hole and gave them lots of momentum.”
Tamaqua continued to produce on both sides of the ball in the second quarter. The Blue Raiders got a three-yard run by Tyler Koch to make it 21-0. The score was set up by a 45-yard Kane to Sell pass. Bradley Whalen’s three-yard run with 4:14 remaining in the half made it 28-0.
The score made the Raiders a perfect 4-for-4 on their offensive possessions in the half.
But Tamaqua’s scoring wasn’t finished as senior defensive end Michael Styka picked off a pass and returned it five yards for the final TD with 3:17 left in the half.
“I thought it was a really nice performance by our kids,” said Bonner. “We made plays on both sides of the ball.
“I was happy with our focus and how we went out and took care of business. We had been playing pretty good ball the second half of the season and we wanted to build on that heading into the playoffs - and I thought we did exactly that.”
While Kane and his receivers were the offensive stars, the Raider defensive front was dominant as well.
Tamaqua limited Panther Valley to 30 yards of total offense on 17 plays from scrimmage in the first half.
“I thought our defense did a nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage,” said Bonner. “Jacob Hehn has played well all season at defensive end for us and he had another nice game tonight, and Michael Styka did a good job at the other end position and got the big bonus when he came up with the pick-6. For a senior playing his last regular season game that was a really cool moment.”
PLAYOFFS ... Tamaqua had already clinched a District 11 Class 3A playoff berth heading into the game. The Raiders (5-5) have now won five of their last six games. They will open district quarterfinal round play with an away game Thursday. The official district playoff brackets won’t be released until Sunday, but Tamaqua is expected to play North Schuylkill.
PICK-6 STREAK ... The interception and TD by Styka was the fourth straight game a Tamaqua player has come up with a pick-6. Sell had one in each of the three previous games. In addition to Styka’s interception, the Raiders also got one from Schlosser.
SEASON ENDER ... Lavine said after the game that Panther Valley will not be playing a contingency game this season. The Panthers (2-8) did have a bright spot in the contest as sophomore quarterback Brody Breiner raced 58 yards for a fourth quarter score.