From the Reading Eagle -
When Sam Bonner took over as Tamaqua's head football coach in 2007, his main goal was to get the Blue Raiders to a point where games in late October mattered.
So far, he has reached those goals in multiple seasons.
Tamaqua made the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2008 and '11 and has had two eight-win seasons under Bonner. In his sixth season, he has a record of 35-27, which is pretty good in a tough circuit like the Anthracite Football League.
"I'm happy where we stand," Bonner said this week. "I wanted a good start and we want to then finish it off."
This year's team could be really special.
After Friday's 27-6 win over Schuylkill Haven, the Blue Raiders are 5-0 in the league, 7-0 overall, and are getting closer to an AFL title and a District 11-AA playoff berth.
"When I got there I said I wanted this program to get in a position, as the season progresses, the games become more significant," Bonner said. "We're spreading the ball around and we have an unselfish team. The winning part is very satisfying for them."
A big reason for the success has been the perfect storm of a healthy stable of runners and a confident line blowing open holes.
Dalton Nunemacher, a senior, leads Tamaqua in rushing and receiving with more than 500 and 300 yards, respectively. He's also a threat on special teams and has a 95-yard kickoff return on his resume.
"We've been fortunate to stay healthy," Bonner said. "We have lots of backs and we spread the ball around. Nunemacher has been doing a great job and has made some big returns for us.
"We had some athletes in the senior class so that we could make a run. The offensive line has been doing its job. We won some tight games early and we're in the mix."
Other talented backs include Jake Love, who is near 500 yards rushing, and Tyler Hope, who has nearly 400. Overall, the Raiders have almost 2,000 yards on the ground thanks to the line of Devin Murphy, Nick Hollenbach, Cody Houser, Luke Matasago and Austin Resch.
Quarterback Nick Edmonds, who won the starting job after competing with Brett Kosciolek in training camp, is averaging nearly 100 passing yards per game.
On defense, Hollenbach and Nolan Ziegler are tied for the team lead in tackles, while Hollenbach has double-digit sacks. In the defensive backfield, Tyler Krell, Dylan Houser and Dustin Vandermartin each have three interceptions.
The remaining games won't be easy for Tamaqua as two of the three feature backyard rivals Panther Valley and Marian. The Week 10 matchup features a Colts team that has a 6-1 mark.
"The league has been very balanced and we have to watch ourselves every week," Bonner said. "Schuylkill Haven has a very balanced team and Marian has some good athletes. Shenandoah Valley gave us everything we could handle."
However, with a title within reach, the Blue Raiders will be playing with confidence.
"We want to finish it off," Bonner said. "We're (7-0) but we're taking it one week at a time. We're going to stay focused on the game ahead of us."