Blue Raiders topped Line Mountain 41-0
MANDATA – Tamaqua has traditionally been a running team. This year, head coach Sam Bonner would prefer his offense be more balanced with approximately an equal number of run and pass plays.
But if quarterback Brayden Knoblauch plays like he played in Friday’s opener at Line Mountain, then the Blue Raiders might transform into an air attack this season. Knoblauch completed 16-of-19 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns. The Tamaqua defense pitched a shutout as the Blue Raiders topped Line Mountain 41-0.
“Brayden has been throwing the ball on the sidelines with us since he was about seven years old so he’s been doing this for a while and he looked like it tonight,” said Bonner of his senior signal-caller who’s in his third year as a starter. “If we can complete that many passes, I have no problem throwing the ball. A lot of times we’ve been a run-first team and we’d like to be a little more 50-50, but with them loading up the box on us it opened up the passing game and Brayden was hot, so we went with the hot hand.”
Not only was Knoblauch and the offense hot, but Tamaqua’s defense held Line Mountain to just 158 yards of offense, with 36 of those coming on the opening play and 31 coming on a completion late in the fourth quarter with the game already well decided. They also forced six Line Mountain fumbles, recovering four of them.
“We installed a new offense so you’re going to have some growing pains with that,” said Line Mountain coach Brandon Carson. “We’ve done a pretty good job in practice, but practice is one thing and the game situation is another. Tamaqua is an excellent team. They are big and physical and veteran. They’re a complete team and I just wanted to see us fight 48 minutes. If we didn’t turn the ball over I thought we had a chance to be there in the end and I think we would have if we didn’t.”
Early on, it looked like Line Mountain might avoid the same fate as last year’s opener, when it traveled to Tamaqua and fell 42-0. Quarterback Evan Herb took the first play from scrimmage and carried the ball 36 yards and into Tamaqua territory. The Eagles would get one more first down, but the drive stalled at the Tamaqua 19 and they turned it over on downs.
On Tamaqua’s first play of its first drive following a false start penalty, Knoblauch hit Matt Kistler for an 86-yard touchdown pass after Kistler slipped behind the Eagles’ secondary. Knoblauch would hit Kistler twice more in the end zone in the first half, one early in the second quarter and one late in the half. In between, Nate Boyle had a one-yard touchdown run before later adding two second half touchdown runs for the Blue Raiders to put the game into the mercy rule early in the fourth quarter. Kistler grabbed seven receptions for 182 yards, while Boyle ran for 52 yards on 17 carries.
“They were loading up on the run for us so it opened up some of those spots that we hit,” said Bonner.
While they were burned constantly by the pass, Line Mountain did a good job defending the run. Aside from a 27-yard run by Boyle early in the second quarter that set up his first touchdown from one yard out, Tamaqua only gained 30 additional yards on 19 other carries on the evening. But when a quarterback completes over 84 percent of his passes for over 300 yards – at any level – that is tough to beat, especially considering Line Mountain’s four turnovers.
“I knew that they were going to want to come out and throw the ball and we worked like crazy on that and studied a lot of film,” said Carson. “We knew what they were and what they were trying to do. The defense we played, we were going to give up that soft spot in the middle on those curls, but I would have given up those curls all day to avoid giving up home runs. We worked on it, but we just didn’t execute and when that happens, you get nailed with big plays.”
Following its opening drive that got to the Tamaqua 19, Line Mountain didn’t get any closer than the Blue Raider 37 for the remainder of the game until its final drive. Backup quarterback Jace Hackenburg hit Adrian Troutman for a 31-yard pass to put the Eagles inside the Tamaqua 10. Prior to that, the Eagles had negative passing yards for the game. But three straight rushes failed to find the end zone and a 32-yard field goal attempt by Cameron Smeltz was blocked by the Blue Raiders to seal the shutout.
Tamaqua 40, Line Mountain 0
Tamaqua (1-0) 7 21 6 6 – 40
Line Mountain (0-1) 0 0 0 0 – 0
7:29 – (T) Matt Kistler 86-yard pass from Brayden Knoblauch (Nate Boyle kick), 1-81, :22
11:34 – (T) Matt Kistler 12-yard pass from Brayden Knoblauch (Boyle kick), 7-52, 3:14
7:58 – (T) Nate Boyle 1-yard run (Boyle kick), 5-55, 1:45
2:41 – (T) Matt Kistler 9-yard pass from Brayden Knoblauch (Boyle kick), 5-62, 2:45
1:54 – (T) Nate Boyle 4-yard run (kick blocked), 3-11, 1:28
10:01 – (T) Nate Boyle 3-yard run (pass failed), 5-60, 2:20
First downs 18 9
Rushes-net yards 20-57 43-131
Passing yardage 336 27
Passing 16-19-2-0 2-4-0-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 6-4
Penalties-yards 8-70 4-34
RUSHING: Tamaqua: Nate Boyle (17-52-3), Nate Curvey (2-9), Brayden Knoblauch (1-(-4)); Line Mountain: Beau Keim (13-23), Jacob Feese (9-54), Evan Herb (8-33), Jace Hackenburg (6-7), Aidan Herb (3-11), Kelly Reed (2-5), Max Bingman (2-(-2))
PASSING: Tamaqua: Brayden Knoblauch (16-19-336-3-0); Line Mountain: Evan Herb (1-2-(-4)-0-0), Jace Hackenburg (1-1-31-0-0), Jacob Feese (0-1-0-0-0)
RECEIVING: Tamaqua: Matt Kistler (7-182-3), Nate Boyle (4-89), Cody Hamm (2-29), Pierce Demetriades (1-23), Jake Barron (1-9), Lucas Gregoire (1-4); Line Mountain: Adrian Troutman (1-31), Kelly Reed (1-(-4))
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