All eyes on Tamaqua: Undefeated Raiders will battle 6-0 North Schuylkill
There are five undefeated teams left in District 11.
And fortunately, for TN area football fans, two of them will be squaring off in Tamaqua (6-0) on Friday night when North Schuylkill (6-0) rolls into Raider Nation.
Both teams have momentum, and both teams have a ton at stake. When the dust settles, one program will be alone on top of the SLF Division 1.
“That’s the way we wanted to start the second half of the season,” said Bonner in regard to last week’s win over Pottsville. “I think we’re in a fortunate situation, it kind of sets up a real big week for both of us. There’s nothing wrong with momentum; I’d rather be coming into a game like this after a win than a loss.”
Pottsville marked the first of many big SLF Division 1 tests for the Raiders. But Tamaqua’s tailback tandem of Nick Breiner and Nate Boyle had all of the right answers, while supplying 275 combined rushing yards en route to a convincing 35-6 victory. The six points surrendered by the “Blue Flock” in the third frame was the first blemish against the Raiders this season. Instead of that causing any kind of hiccup, the experienced, explosive Tamaqua squad marched right down the field on the ensuing drive to post another touchdown, which pretty much sealed the deal.
“I told our kids they did a good job after giving up our first score of the year, coming right back and scoring to make it 21-6,” Bonner added.
If there’s any team that has the Raiders’ number over recent seasons, it’s the Spartans, who have won the last five meetings against Tamaqua. However, Week 7 will be another opportunity for Bonner’s squad to prove that 2018 is different.
Tamaqua leads the TN area in total offense (391.8 per-game), ranks second in rushing yards, and is third in passing yards. On the flip side, the Flock are yielding only 108.2 yards per-game, which makes them the second-best defense in the area, only trailing Jim Thorpe.
So far, the Raiders have answered every question on the Scantron sheet in front of them. From containing Kobe Brish and Schuylkill Haven, to blanking Blue Mountain, and then comfortably earning a road win at Pottsville, the Flock have sharpened their No. 2 pencil more and more with each passing week. Just over halfway through this 10-week, regular-season midterm, Tamaqua now has its toughest, most physical question to tackle.
North Schuylkill comes into the contest after a gritty, impressive 8-6 victory over Jim Thorpe (5-1) last week. The game was physical, muddy, and just one play separated them to decide a winner.
Both teams proved why they received many votes from the coaches and media to be a strong favorite to win the league. The Spartans and Olympians are both huge up-front, and have the “punch you in the face” type ability. North Schuylkill currently has over 2,000 rushing yards to lead the SLF. Quarterback Jaden Leiby is a big threat, and tailback Mitchell Wagner had over 100 yards of total offense during last week’s win.
“Going into the Jim Thorpe game, Leiby was the leading rusher in the area at quarterback,” Bonner said. “It’s a one-two punch kind of thing. They have some other guys that can contribute, but it’s going to be big to stop the run. Not that they can’t throw the ball, but they’re a run-first team. They seem to have those big-hitters on the run. One play, that’s all it takes for you to blow an assignment. I think our front-seven guys; D-tackles, our C-gap linebackers, and our defensive ends, need to have a big game. It’s going to be hard-nosed football, and they all have to do their jobs.”
The Raiders have several potential solutions for North Schuylkill.
Maybe the tailbacks will steal the show. Maybe quarterback Brayden Knoblauch will make the difference. Maybe the boys in the trenches will win the battle. Or, maybe it might need to be “all of the above” to knock off the Spartans.
“It should be an exciting night,” said Bonner. “It’s our homecoming, it’s big for the school and for the kids. We have to stay focused and our main goal is to win on Friday night.”