Raiders rout Thorpe
Tamaqua’s Brayden Knoblauch runs for a touchdown against Jim Thorpe Friday night. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
When Tamaqua quarterback Brayden Knoblauch was named Homecoming King at halftime, he fumbled the handoff of the crown and it fell to the ground.
It was one of the few mistakes that Knoblauch and his Blue Raider teammates made Friday night.
Knoblauch scored on three short touchdown runs as Tamaqua rolled to a 40-7 victory over Jim Thorpe in a Schuylkill Division 1 matchup that was basically a play-in game for the District 11 Class 3A playoffs.
“We approached this as a playoff game,” said Knoblauch. “We knew that if we didn’t win tonight there was a good chance that this would be the final game of our Tamaqua careers.
“Our senior class has played a lot of football together over the last few years and none of us wanted this to be our final game together.”
It wasn’t in large part because of the Raiders’ ability to capitalize on Jim Thorpe mistakes.
While Knoblauch’s fumble of the crown was the only Tamaqua mistake until late in the game, that wasn’t the case for Jim Thorpe.
The Olympians lost four fumbles in the game. One stopped their best drive of the night deep in Tamaqua territory, one led directly to a Tamaqua touchdown, and two set up short Raider scoring drives.
“You can’t turn the ball over against a good team like Tamaqua and win the game,” said Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger. “Give Tamaqua credit. They are a good team and they took advantage of our mistakes.”
Jim Thorpe’s first turnover might have been the most crucial play of the game. The Olympians marched from their own 12-yard line to the Tamaqua 8-yard line on their first possession of the game. But on a second-and-seven play, Olympian quarterback Davier Calcano dropped back to pass and lost control of the ball under heavy Tamaqua pressure. The Raiders’ Jared Reed recovered it and Thorpe never seemed to recover.
“I thought the first turnover was big,” said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. “They were driving and our defense forced the fumble and then recovered it.
“That seemed to turn the momentum in our favor. Give our kids credit, every time Jim Thorpe turned the ball over, we capitalized on it. That’s what good teams are supposed to do and that’s what we did tonight.”
One series after the miscue, Tamaqua flipped the field position and drove 54 yards on four plays to take lead. Nate Curvey got the touchdown on a powerful 5-yard run on the final play of the opening quarter.
Tamaqua took control of the game in the second quarter. capitalizing on a pair of bad snaps by the Olympians. A snap over the punter’s head resulted in a 29-yard loss and a fumble recovery by Jake Barron.
The Raiders went 21 yards in seven plays with Knoblauch going the final four yards for the TD.
On the first play of Thorpe’s next possession, a bad snap out of the shotgun formation eluded Calcano and Tamaqua’s Sean Lavine fell on the ball in the end zone to make it 19-0.
The Olympians fumbled again on the first play of the second half. This time Pierce Demetriades recovered for Tamaqua on the JT 20-yard line. Knoblauch scored his second TD of the night a few plays later on a 9-yard run.
Knoblauch’s first two scores came on quarterback bootlegs — something that Tamaqua hasn’t done much this season.
“We noticed on film that Jim Thorpe really flowed hard to ball when teams ran motion,” said Knoblauch. “We thought the keeper could be open off a fake sweep and it was.”
Knoblauch added a 1-yard run on Tamaqua’s next possession to make it 33-0 and the Raiders kicked the game into mercy rule with a 5-yard Boyle run early in the fourth quarter.
“I believe Jim Thorpe was a +13 in turnover margin coming into the game,” said Bonner. “We talked to our kids a lot this week about protecting the ball and winning the turnover battle and that was exactly what we did.”
PLAYOFFS ... The victory clinches a District 11 Class 3A playoff spot for Tamaqua (8-2). Meanwhile, Jim Thorpe (6-3) drops to sixth place. Despite that, Jim Thorpe looks like it would still make districts if it beats Lehighton and it gets two losses next week from the group of Pine Grove, Notre Dame and Salisbury. The Olympians could conceivably get in even without losses by some of the other contenders because the rating points between 3rd and 6th place are extremely tight.
NUMBERS ... Jim Thorpe’s C.J. Selby rushed for 89 yards in the game and in the process became the school’s all-time rushing leader. Knoblauch passed for 92 yards and now just needs 19 more to set the Tamaqua single-season passing yardage record. He’s just 198 yards away from becoming Tamaqua’s career passing leader.