All season, the Tunkhannock Area Junior Tigers C-Team had dominated the competition, finishing both the regular season and divisional playoffs undefeated.
That hard work was rewarded with a trip to the Northern Area Junior Football League Super Bowl, played at Carbondale Area High School on Sunday.
The Tigers would be up against a more than worthy opponent in Abington South, which was also undefeated heading into the game. But it was Tunkhannock who prevailed, winning 7-0 in a hard-fought battle of the unbeatens.
The stage had been set for an old-school football game, as the center of the field showed signs of a full season of high school football, and a week of off-and-on rain added to less than perfect conditions for two high-speed, high-scoring teams.
“At least they have to play on the same field and conditions,” head coach Mike Marabell said before the game. He confidently added to his players, “We’ve got this, we’ll be fine.”
A week of solid practice under the lights provided by Taylor Rental, along with pep talks by Tunkhannock mayor Norm Ball, Tunkhannock Area superintendent Mike Healey and police officers Sgt. Edward Morristell and Ptlm. Robert Reimiller all contributed to the preparation for the young players, where attention to every detail could lift spirits enough to perhaps give them an edge.
Ace-Robbins Inc. in Tunkhannock also showed its support throughout the week, streaming a good luck message on its outdoor bulletin board to encourage the Tigers.
A well-deserved bus ride to the game, donated by the Burgess family, was also exciting to the team, and the parents and cheerleaders prepared the stands to showcase ‘Tiger Pride,’ turning the stadium into a home away from home.
Tunkhannock immediately gained a bit of momentum by winning the coin toss.
A failed onside kick by the Comets gave the Tigers great field position to start the game, but moving the ball into the red zone was tough against an equally excited and energized Abington team, which refused to give up a touchdown on the first drive of the game.
Quarterback Paige Marabell, along with running backs Ben Chilson, Garrett Yuhas, Aidan Paddock and Colin Madan would have a tough time moving the ball, even with the offensive line of Jeremy Rowe, Connor Chesner, Seth Bullock, Carson Gregory, Brody Gregory, Tyler Pietrowski and Austin Holiday paving the way.
Though the Tigers were unable to score, the drive pinned the Comets deep in their own territory.
The swarming, hard-hitting Tunkhannock defense also did not give up any big plays, or points. The defense line wore down the Comets, with the help of Jacob Kinney, Bullock, Matt Smith and Riley Dokechek.
Along with the line, the Tunkhannock defensive ends of Yuhas and Marabell and the tackling of Tyler Bell, Pietrowski, Paduck, R.J. Sawicki, Chilson, Madan and Gregory made the Comets offensive schemes difficult to execute.
Both teams battled back and forth in the first half, with yards, mud and clocked chewed up to result in no score heading into halftime.
Tunkhannock kicked off to the Comets to start the second half, but its defense would again stall Abington, who gave the ball back to the Tigers.
After a push forward, the Tigers running game found its way into the endzone, as Yuhas barreled in for the score and added the extra point to give Tunkhannock the 7-0 lead.
The score would prove to be the game-winner, as Tunkhannock special teams schemed to get the ball back on the kickoff.
A plan for an onside kick was in effect, but the Comets were ready, and sent several sure-handed players to the front of the pack for the recovery.
However, Pietrowski pooched the ball over their heads to perfection while the Tigers sprinted down the field toward the ball.
Yuhas recovered, giving the ball back to Tunkhannock’s offense to finish the battle on the gridiron with around four minutes left in the game.
Coach Marabell used every backer, including Kasmierski, Eastep, Dickinson, Ebert and LaChase, to keep the ball on the ground and chew up the remaining clock behind the punishing offensive line of the Gregorys, Geritz, Bullock, Chesner, Holiday and Smith, to keep the ball on the ground and chew up the remaining clock behind the punishing offensive line.
The strategy worked, allowing the Tigers to run out the clock and secure the win.
The Tunkhannock Area Junior Tigers B-Team was defeated, 40-8, by West Scranton in its Super Bowl game.