Olympians’ defense comes up big
Jim Thorpe’s Dom Madera (22) looks for running room as Schuylkill Haven’s Mason Reber (45) attempts to get off a block. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
With today’s style of football, with spread offenses, up tempo schemes and a lot of no huddle, a defensive battle is few and far between. However, on Friday night both Jim Thorpe and Schuylkill Haven proved that their defenses are going to be tough to handle during the 2019 season.
In a true defensive war, the Olympians and Hurricanes took it to each other play after play, but Thorpe (1-0) was able to outlast Haven for a 10-7 victory on opening night of the high school football season.
Thorpe’s “Red Swarm” defense had one goal defensively coming into its match-up with Schuylkill Haven and that was stop Kobe Brish. Brish has been one of the premier running backs in the state during his career, rushing for almost 6,000 yards and scoring 78 touchdowns in three seasons.
Early on, it looked as if Brish was going to get out to a fast-paced start once again, when on the fourth play of the ball game he raced 55 yards to the end zone. The play came on fourth and one and it gave the Hurricanes a 7-0 lead on the road with 10:45 remaining in the first.
“We have a good mix of younger guys and then some experienced leaders, and those leaders stayed positive after they hit us with that big running play. We didn’t panic. When you’re playing an outstanding player like Brish, he’s going to make some plays and he did there,” said Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger. “But after that we bounced back. On that play it comes to assignment football, we got caught coming inside on that play, but as the game went on, we got better. We just have to trust in one another, trust our responsibilities and execute and we were able to do that.”
Thorpe did bounce back and in a big way. Trailing 7-0 after the first, the Olympians scored 10 points in the second to take a three-point lead into intermission. Thorpe knotted the game at seven-all after putting together the longest drive from their own 24-yard line late in the second. A 13-play drive that featured a lot of returning 1,000-yard rusher CJ Selby (59 yards rushing on the drive) was capped off by a four-yard play action pass hook-up between quarterback Davier Calcano and tight end Collin Binder. Then, on the ‘Canes ensuing possession the Olympians were able to force a fumble on Brish, recovering the ball at the Schuylkill Haven 43-yard line. An eight-play drive culminated in a 22-yard field goal attempt by Chris Condly that was good, giving Thorpe the momentum, heading into the half.
“Special teams was huge for us tonight. Chris Condly got his first make and our punter Travis Benson did a good job of flipping the field for us to in the field position game. Without those guys we don’t come away with a win tonight,” added Rosenberger.
The second half was the epitome of a defensive battle, with either team scoring a point. The ‘Canes didn’t get a first down in the second half, punting five times and turning the ball over on downs once. But even with their offensive struggles, Haven still had a shot to win the game.
With the Olympians trying to run the clock out late in the game disaster struck. On a second down play with 46 seconds remaining and with Schuylkill Haven having just one timeout, Thorpe lost the football in the backfield, giving the ball back to the Hurricanes on their own 42.
But once again the Olympians defense was able to stand their ground, forcing Haven to turn the ball over on downs after four incomplete passes.
“This was just a great high school football game. Credit to Haven, that’s a tough group, well-coached and they will have success this season,” said Rosenberger.
“I’m just proud of my guys for staying composed in situations where they could’ve lost their composure. It was hard-fought win for sure.”
BARRICADING BRISH … After Brish’s 55-yard scamper the “Red Swarm” lived up to its nickname. Brish ran for just 31 yards the rest of the night, averaging just 2.2 yards per carry.
STEADY SELBY … The Olympians work horse running back looked to be in mid-season form and on his way to another 1,000-yard season, rushing for 173 yards on 29 carries.
PUNT-A-PALOOZA … Each team had six punts. Haven averaged 44 yards per punt, while Thorpe averaged 41.