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Tamaqua shuts out Salisbury

For most, finding positives from a 52-0 loss would be difficult.

But that isn’t the case for Salisbury head coach Andy Cerco.

After Friday’s defeat at Tamaqua, the Falcons’ mentor was quick to heap praise on his team - especially the guys upfront on the offensive line.

The statistics show his players only rushed for 69 yards on 30 carries and didn’t reach the end zone, but the accolades were for other reasons.

“I was proud of our offensive line,” said Cerco. “We had a couple of people that weren’t able to play this evening. We had a sophomore, Andrew Nemeth, step in. It’s his second year of football ever in his entire life. A freshman, Sam Krauss, moved from guard to center because we needed a center. He’s a freshman taking on that kind of role, and we run both under center and shotgun, so what a great kid.

“We had Nate Tone volunteer, he’s a sophomore. He volunteered to play guard because he knew we needed some help at that position. And then Elijah Garriga, also a freshman, was playing guard tonight. So you kind of understand my point here in what I’m saying. We have a lot of great kids who are resilient and they are playing to the best of their current ability. And I love them, and I’m proud of them.”

Cerco also had to be pleased with his defense, rebounding after a tough start on Friday.

The Blue Raiders opened the game with a 58-yard drive that resulted in a 3-yard touchdown by Brad Whalen. After the Falcons turned the ball over on their first play from scrimmage, Tamaqua’s Whalen reached the end zone again on a 35-yard scamper.

But after that second score - and a pair of two-point conversions - gave the Raiders a 16-0 lead, Salisbury’s D managed back-to-back stops and even came up with a turnover.

A bad snap on a Falcons punt attempt, however, gave Tamaqua the ball inside the red zone at the 13 late in the second quarter. The Raiders took advantage to push the margin to 22-0, which is how the first half ended.

“I didn’t make any changes or adjustments,” said Cerco about the defensive efforts after Tamaqua’s first two drives. “Our players made changes and adjustments in how they were operating and how they were playing.

“What that demonstrates is the great resiliency that our kids have. (Tamaqua) got those two scores, we spotted them two, and then they were resilient. It doesn’t matter the circumstances that they’re in, they’re going to continue to play hard and persevere. And that’s one of our core values. I think they demonstrated that tonight.”

Unfortunately for Cerco and his squad, things got away from them as Tamaqua scored on all four of its second-half possessions.

It also doesn’t get any easier for the Falcons (0-5) as next up is a home contest against Northern Lehigh - last season’s District 11 2A champions. After that is a trip to Palmerton to play the Blue Bombers, who are 3-2 and faced the Bulldogs in that 2A title game.

Despite the tough competition, Cerco will have his troops ready for battle.

“We do a lot of work with the military,” said Cerco. “We have a whole bunch of coaches on staff connected to the military. We just kind of look at it as our special forces go in against insurmountable odds and so do we, and we do the best we can with what we’ve got.

“We’ve got a bunch of kids that love to play football, and they’re lacing it up. They’re out here in the arena. They’re in the arena working hard. They’re here working hard and giving it their best effort.”

Quarterback Jacob Bucchin had a big 16-yard run in the first quarter that gave the Falcons their first first down and moved them into Tamaqua territory. Unfortunately, the drive stalled and they forced to punt.

Bucchin hit Nick Beck with a 14-yard pass in the third frame and followed that up with a 7-yard run that moved the team inside the 40, but two sacks by the Raiders ended that scoring chance.

Jason St. Leger provided his team’s longest gain of the night when he broke off a 23-yard run early in the fourth.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Nick Beck had a reception and run that got Salisbury in good field position last Friday night against Tamaqua. But the Falcons were unable to score on that possession or any other in a shutout loss.