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Kane, Raiders keep rolling

Luke Kane seamlessly shifted from special teams drills to running the Tamaqua offense during practice on Wednesday.

It’s nothing new for Kane or any of the Blue Raiders, many of whom are called upon to contribute in all three phases of the game.

Whether he’s in as the long-snapper on punts, making plays at linebacker on defense, or directing the offense down the field at quarterback, Kane is ready to contribute wherever and whenever he’s needed.

The junior did damage through the air last Friday, as Kane completed eight of nine passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns to help Tamaqua score 35 points in the first half in a win over Panther Valley.

It was a performance that helped Kane earn Times News Football Player of the Week honors for a squad that went 5-1 in its final six games, with the only loss coming to unbeaten Palmerton in Week 9.

“Obviously, I think just as a team we had growing pains early on,” said Blue Raiders’ head coach Sam Bonner. “We had a lot of guys who didn’t play receiver for us the year before, we lost our tight end to start off the year, so it was a matter of gelling. And I think if you look at Luke’s numbers, especially in the second half of the season, he really improved that second half of the season.

“He’s improved each week. He was very efficient this past week. He made big plays when he had to, and he’s been using his legs well. We kind of give him that run-pass option on some of our bootleg stuff, and he’s been making good decisions, whether it’s tucking it away and trying to run for a first down or throwing the ball up trying to get a score. But he’s been doing great with his decision making, and the second half of the season, I think he’s really gelled with his receivers.”

Kane connected with Damon Sell for a 59-yard score, and found Victor Schlosser for a 15-yard touchdown to help Tamaqua take control early.

The junior’s confidence - and comfort - running the offense is apparent.

“From last year to this year, I’ve learned a lot,” said Kane. “Coach (Eddie) Titus got me learning how to read an offense, read a defense. And my guys up front, they give me time, they give me all the time in the world to throw the ball. They really help me out, set me up and I think they trust me. The ball’s in my hands, we’re going to make something happen.”

Left tackle Michael Styka, left guard Declan Franz, center Luke Fronheiser, right guard Malachi Stewart and right tackle Landen Tringone helped pave the way for a dominant performance Friday night, where Kane was in total command.

“It gives you a lot more confidence in opening the playbook up,” said Bonner. “Obviously, we’re always thought of as a run-first team, but now you feel a little bit more comfortable maybe on a second and short, even on a first down, calling some play-action, letting him make that decision.”

Kane’s contributions on defense Friday included a sack and three total tackles as the Blue Raiders limited the Panthers to five first downs and one passing yard, with 58 of their 109 rushing yards coming on a touchdown run by Brody Breiner in the fourth quarter.

“He doesn’t come off the field too often,” Bonner said of Kane. “He’s a big, strong, physical kid. And I think he enjoys it. He enjoys being on the field on both sides of the ball. You don’t always get that. But we’re a small school, and we expect that. We’ve got a tailback (Bradley Whalen) that’s a nose guard, we’ve got a quarterback that’s a linebacker. Jacob Hehn is playing defensive end, and then maybe four other positions on offense. But we have unselfish kids that are all doing that, and Luke’s definitely one of them.”

And Kane, who leads the team with 71 total tackles, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I think it’s great. Everyone together, on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, we all work together,” said Kane. “I think it’s better to work together, that we’re all on the same page, and it’s a great feeling to win a game after you just came off playing offense, defense, and I think it’s built a big relationship through all of us.”

It’s a combination that’s helped the Blue Raiders surge down the stretch, and secure a spot in the District 11 Class 3A playoffs with a 5-5 record. Having already faced adversity in the beginning of the season, the team now has momentum it hopes to continue through the postseason and beyond.

“We started out 0-4, and I think that brought the team together better,” said Kane. “We learned to build together, work together and it put us on the winning side of the ball.”

Tamaqua quarterback Luke Kane completed eight of nine passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns last Friday to help the Blue Raiders defeat Panther Valley. That performance earned Kane the Times News Football Player of the Week. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS