Raiders roll over Blue Mountain
ORWIGSBURG – It’s now post time.
The real games have begun for Tamaqua as it searches for perfection and also chases the Schuylkill Football League Division I championship.
And if Friday’s impressive 49-14 win over Blue Mountain is any indication, the Blue Raiders just might take the reins and ride the horse to the finish line – in a breeze.
Scoring at will, Tamaqua posted three first quarter touchdowns to take command early.
The Raiders then foiled a potential late second quarter Blue Mountain rally thanks to a huge defensive play from unheralded defender Pierce Demetriades. With the Eagles driving minutes after cutting the Tamaqua lead to 28-7, Demetriades came up with an interception and return to the Blue Mountain 25 to flip the momentum back to the Raiders
“We were busting on (Pierce) when he gave up a big play,” smiled Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner about an earlier Blue Mountain possession. “He made it up with that … it could have been a 28-14 game at half,”
Instead, Tamaqua added a fifth touchdown to go ahead 35-7. The Raiders turned to their dynamic passing combination of Braydon Knoblauch and Matt Kistler for a 7-yard touchdown strike with just :02 left in the half.
As much as the offensive juggernaut continues to run smooth, the Raiders are starting to string up a defense that they will need over the final half of the regular season .
“We are putting it into another gear in practice and it’s showing,” explained Bonner. Friday night, the Raiders got big games from Braxton Whitaker, Bronson Strouse, Nate Wickersham, Lucas Schickram, Jared Reed and Jake Barron.
At times it seemed as if Wickersham and Whitaker were feasting in the Blue Mountain backfield, hounding Eagles quarterback Jason Dean with five sacks, while stuffing the run game and making it non-existent.
“God gave me a lot of speed and I’m using it,” said Whitaker.
“We’re reading our keys and staying (disciplined),” said Wickersham.
The offense was once again in high gear as well.
The 21 first-quarter points started with Knoblauch and Kistler combining for a 21-yard toss. Knoblauch, the sensational senior quarterback, threaded the needle in between two Blue Mountain defenders for the score.
Blue Mountain turned over the pigskin on the ensuing kickoff and a two-play scoring drive was polished off by speedy Nate Boyle. The final score of the opening quarter came when Tamaqua traversed 30 yards in five plays with Boyle blasting the final three yards on the ground.
The avalanche continued to fall on the hosts when Blue Mountain had a shanked punt end up on its 39 early in the second quarter. Two plays later Boyle raced 28-yards to make it 28-0.
The Eagles finally had an answer, thanks to Dean who uncorked a pair of completions, one for 32 yards to Bryce Hensley and the second a 13-yard scoring strike to Gavin Bartholomew.
That set the stage for Demetrious to make a pick to set up the fifth touchdown for his team.
The Raiders quickly went for the jugular after intermission as Kistler went coast-to-coast on a scintillating 94-yard kick return to open the second half. Boyle hit the end zone for the final touchdown polishing off a 58-yard drive with a dazzling 8-yard touchdown scoot.
CRANKING UP THE HEAT… Some people questioned Tamaqua’s defense off the edge. The doubting Thomas’ need not fret any further, the Raiders were outstanding containing any outside rush attack Blue Mountain was trying.
GETTING UP FIELD … Wickersham and Whitaker are starting to come of age and are working like a fine tuned machine. There were times when it seemed like Whitaker knew the play call beating the blocker to get to Dean or one of the running backs.
ON THE AGENDA … Tamaqua will get a measuring stick game Friday at home with Pottsville. Get your seats early … the house will be packed and rocking.
THE BIG BANG … Tamaqua’s band continues to draw raves. Top-flight and maybe best in the area! Bravo!!!