By Marian Valanoski
For The Daily Item
COAL TOWNSHIP — Travis Blankenhorn has already been offered a Division I scholarship to play baseball at the University of Kentucky. The Wildcats might want to look at the Pottsville High School senior as a potential standout for the school’s football program.
The 6-foot-2 senior was a one-man highlight reel Friday night, catching five passes for 188 yards, including one spectacular one-handed grab in the opening half to lead the Crimson Tide past Shamokin 41-13 on Friday at Kemp Memorial Stadium.
The loss put a damper on the first game for new Indians’ head coach, Yaacov Yisrael.
Both teams showed the typical first-game jitters and were guilty of sloppy play and mistakes. But it was Pottsville (1-0) that opened the season’s scoring when, on a second-and 12, quarterback Tyler Moser managed to squeeze a pass between two defenders and Blankenhorn somehow grabbed the ball one-handed out and raced 57 yards for a touchdown with 6:51 remaining in the period. Shamokin blocked the extra-point try.
The Indians’ defense exhibited a feisty attitude and kept the Tide offense in check most of the opening period, and the visitors were their own worst enemy with 11 penalties in the opening half for 101 yards.
With the score at 6-0 midway through the second period, the Indians took advantage of a short punt and went 54 yards in three plays to tie the score. John Demsko provided the big momentum lift in the scoring drive by bolting over the left side of the line and racing 50 yards down to the Tide 4 where he was knocked out of bounds by Blankenhorn. Two plays later Tucker Yost bulled through the middle of the line for a one-yard touchdown and deadlocked the game at 6-6. A bad snap prevented the PAT kick from getting off the ground.
The Tide responded immediately on the ensuing kickoff when Darion Jacoby returned the ball to the Indians’ 10 but a series of penalties moved it back to the 25. Carey Bostick picked up 11 yards to the 11 and two plays later Moser, after rushing for 10 yards, went over from the one and Kolby Kleckner’s extra-point gave the visitors a 13-6 lead.
With time running out and the ball at the Shamokin 48, the Tide went to the air again and Moser found Blankenhorn along the sideline for a 41-yard reception to the seven. Two plays later Jacoby went over from the two to give the Tide a 20-6 halftime lead.
“We made a lot of mistakes and hurt ourselves when we had the opportunity to put points on the board,” Yisrael said. “Our inexperience showed in certain situations and it hurt us.”
Despite what the scoreboard indicated the Indians clearly outplayed the Tide in the half but that inexperience in key areas and miscues were the difference from showing a different tally on the board.
Pottsville, with an obvious weight advantage and depth, began to wear down the smaller Indians, and it was Blankenhorn who bailed the team out of poor field position when he raced down the left sideline again and outjumped the defender en route to an 87-yard touchdown play that upped the lead to 27-6.
Taking advantage of a short Shamokin punt, Pottsville took complete control of the game with a six-play, 40-yard scoring drive culminating with Moser finding Quentin Chambers on fourth down for a 25-yard touchdown.
“We came out with a goal of wearing down their team in the second half, Tide head coach Tom McGeoy said. “Our line took control and we adapted better to the heat having played in Florida earlier and we were prepared for the weather.
“Our mistakes hurt us in the first half but we got big plays from out big-play performer when we needed the.”
The Indians did not roll over but responded by scoring on a Erik Taylor two-yard run with Alek Washuta adding the extra-point.
Pottsville capped the scoring in the game when Bostick ran for a nine-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.