Blue Raider Line Demolishes Devils
SHENANDOAH – On Friday morning, the headline of the Republican Herald’s “Football Friday” special said: “Game will be Won in the Trenches.” Tamaqua’s offensive and defensive lines came up big against a tough Blue Devil front. Senior noseguard Nick Hollenbach entered tonight’s game without a sack. The senior left the field with four. The 5’8″, 166lbs. defensive linemen wreaked havoc in the Shenandoah backfield all night, and he turned it up late by throwing QB Chris Palubinsky down twice on Shenandoah’s final drive.
Tamaqua traveled to Shenandoah Valley on a hot, September night to take on the rival Blue Devils in an Anthracite Football League game. Tamaqua received the opening kickoff but saw their drive end on an interception by Chris Palubinsky on the Blue Devil 38 yard-line. Shenandoah picked up some momentum and was looking to take an early lead before Junior WR Kayin Herb put the ball on the turf and Tyler Krell came up with it for Tamaqua. Anyone who criticized Tamaqua’s passing game was immediately silenced as Nate Edmonds hooked up with Dustin Vandermartin for an 83 yard catch and run to open the scoring and give the Blue Raiders a 7-0 lead early in first quarter. Shenandoah answered as Palubinsky drove his offense down the field on a 14-play, 73-yard scoring drive capped off with a touchdown pass to senior Nick Merva on a 4th and 18, but the snap was fumbled on the PAT and Tamaqua was clinging to a 7-6 lead heading into the second quarter.
Tamaqua’s offensive line continued to wear down the Devil defense, but the skill positions seemed to get through the second level so scoring was tough to come by. Shenandoah’s receivers did not have trouble getting open, but the visiting team’s relentless pass rush was not allowing Palubinsky to set up and fire. Despite both teams’ struggles, Tamaqua’s offense hit a groove late in the half and standout Dalton Nunemacher hauled in a 16-yard pass to extend their lead to 14-6 with just six seconds to go before halftime.
The Raiders had confidence and momentum heading into the break but Shenandoah Valley had been trailing at the half against Tamaqua for the past two seasons and had comeback to win both meetings. Shenandoah cut the Raiders lead to two by Kevin Karpovich finishing off the drive from the one-yard line. Tamaqua stopped the two-point conversion attempt, but their fortunes continued to turn sour when Dalton Nunemacher dropped the kickoff that rolled back to the five yard line. The senior didn’t get rattled. He picked it up, weaved through waves of defenders and ran it all the way back for a 95 yard return to put Tamaqua back out 20-12 after Vandermartin pushed the PAT wide left.
As the clock went under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Shenandoah looked down and out and the sacks were starting to pile up for the Blue Raiders. Palubinsky avoided the pass rush and found his favorite target, Merva, for a 21 yard score to cut the lead back to two with the conversion coming up. The senior QB could not find a man open and his pass fell incomplete and Tamaqua retained the lead with just over three minutes remaining. Vandermartin hauled in another big pass, this time from 50 yards, to put Tamaqua’s lead back to eight, but had his kick blocked. So it remained a one possession game with just over two minutes to go. With the Blue Devils driving and looking to tie the ball game, senior safety Tyler Krell came up with the interception, and Tamaqua’s run game pounded it down Shenandoah’s throat to give the Raiders a 26-18 win.
The Blue Raiders win improves their record to 3-0 with an equally perfect 2-0 mark in the Anthracite Football League. Tamaqua will look to stay perfect as they now face the Golden Bears of Mahanoy Area on Hall of Fame night. “Shendo” Valley falls to 1-2 and 1-1 in the AFL. Next week they’ll butt heads with the Minersville Battlin’ Miners.
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