CLARION - Redbank Valley's bid for a second-straight District 9 Class A title was at a crossroads late in the Bulldogs' title tilt with Union/A-C Valley as Redbank Valley was tied at 21-21 with the Falcon Knights and faced a fourth-and-11 at the Union/A-C Valley 21 but the Bulldogs' Tate Minich assuaged the Redbank Valley angst in one fell swoop.
Minich made a diving 12-yard catch just in front of the Bulldogs' sidelines to convert the crucial first down keeping Redbank Valley's game-winning drive alive.
Four plays after Minich's catch, the Bulldogs' Ray Shreckengost plowed in to the end zone from the 1 for what turned out to be the game-winning score in Redbank Valley's 28-21 win over the Falcon Knights at Clarion University's Memorial Stadium Nov. 19.
According to Redbank Valley head coach Blane Gold, there is no one he would have rather had running that pass pattern than Minich.
"Tate has the best hands on this football team," Gold said. "Tate has always been overshadowed (by outside receivers Marshall and Marquese Gardlock) but I think the last two weeks people have been able to see what Tate is capable of."
Minich's catch capped a wild title game which saw the Bulldogs storm out to a 21-0 after one quarter but the Falcon Knights rallied back with three scores to tie the game at 21-21 in the opening moments of the fourth quarter.
The win gives Redbank Valley its second-straight title. According to D9and10Sports.com, the last time Redbank Valley won consecutive titles was in 1991 and 1992. The Bulldogs were declared the District 9 Class 2A winner in 1991 without a playoff and the Bulldogs beat... to claim the crown in 1992.
The win is the 11th in a row for the Bulldogs. Last season, Redbank Valley only got to play a total of eight games last year and the Bulldogs won the District 9 title in their sixth game of the year.
"We did this over a full season, which is special," Gold. "To come out and win 11 games in a row to win the title definitely makes this special."
Redbank Valley got off to a fast start with the Bulldogs' Bryson Bain firing a 64-yard touchdown pass to Chris Marshall on the second play from scrimmage. The throw by Bain was hauled in around the Falcon Knight 30 by a wide open Marshall who galloped to the end zone.
"That throw was the reason I made the gut-wrenching decision to put him in as starting quarterback over Gunner (Mangiantini)," Gold said. "Bryson has a phenomenal arm. He is approaching 30 touchdown passes for the season."
Marshall was the Bulldogs' leading receiver hauling in six passes for 92 yards and a TD.
Tyson Adams booted the extra-point to give Redbank Valley a 7-0 lead with 11:11 remaining in the first frame.
The Falcon Knights went three-and-out on the subsequent drive and punted the ball back to the Bulldogs who took over at their own 34.
Redbank Valley matriculated the ball down the field on the following possession with Bain throwing passes of 7 and 10 yards to Marshall moving the Bulldogs to the Redbank Valley 48. Two plays later, Bain connected with Aiden Ortz for a 14-yard completion. On third-nd-9 from the Falcon Knights 32, Bain connected again with Ortz for a 9-yard gain giving the Bulldogs a first down at the Union/A-C Valley 23. Bain followed with a 9-yard completion to Marshall putting the Bulldogs at the Falcon Knight 14. A false start pushed the Bulldogs back to the 19 but Bain connected with Minich for a 9-yard completion and Shreckengost followed with a 10-yard run up the gut as he charged into the end zone for the touchdown.
Bain completed 7-of-10 passes on the drive for 59 yards.
Ray Shreckengost had 17 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
On the ensuing drive, the Bulldogs defense dropped the Falcon Knights' Dawson Camper for a 2-yard loss on first down. On third-and-12, Falcon Knights' starting quarterback Bailey Crissman dropped back to pass but the Bulldogs pass rush broke through and Crissman had to scramble. Crissman gained 9 yards but the Falcon Knights were again forced to punt.
Crissman bobbled the punt snap. Crissman recovered the ball and attempted the punt but the Bulldogs' Carsen Rupp barreled in and blocked the punt and scooped up the ball and raced 30 yards to the end zone for the touchdown.
Adams' PAT kick extended the Bulldogs' lead to 21-0 with 2:44 left in the quarter.
The Falcon Knights switched quarterbacks on the next drive as Brody Dittman took the reins.
Dittman opened the drive with a 12-yard pass to Mikey Card. Later in the drive, Dittman found Caden Rainey for a 9-yard completion to give the Falcon Knights a first down at the Bulldog 34. One play later, the Bulldogs dropped Camper for no gain but Redbank Valley was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moving the Falcon Knights to the Bulldog 19.
The Redbank Valley defense stiffened after the penalty and the Falcon Knights turned the ball over on downs at the Bulldog 18.
The Bulldogs swiftly oved into Falcon Knight territory on the following drive but the Falcon Knights defense stepped up when the Bulldogs entered the Union/A-C Valley territory. The Falcon Knights' Ryan Cooper dropped Brenden Shreckengost for a 5-yard loss on a second and-8 play from the Union/A-C Valley 22. On fourth down, the Falcon Knights' Landon Chalmers sacked Bain for a 5-yard loss giving the ball back to Union/A-C Valley on downs.
The Falcon Knights capitalized on the turnover on downs by piecing together eight-play, 68-yard drive capped by a 12-yard scoring strike from Dittman to Skyler Roxbury.
The Falcon Knights used a little razzle-dazzle to open the drive as Ryan Cooper took a reverse handoff from Camper, rolled left and flung a 38- yard strike to Cooper. Later in the drive Dittman connected with Rainey for a 15-yard gain. Facing a fourth-and-1 at the Bulldog 21, Camper took the handoff from Dittman and plowed through the Bulldog defense for a 9-yard gain giving the Falcon Knights a first-and-10 at the Bulldog 12.
Roxbury had five catches for 76 yards and the score.
Colton Murray added the extra-point cutting the Bulldog lead to 21-7 with 4:27 left in the second half.
It looked like the Bulldogs were going to answer the Union/A-C Valley score in short order as Bain connected with Brenden Shreckengost on a swing pass in the left flat and Shreckengost galloped deep into Falcon Knight territory and he was tackled at the Union/A-C Valley 2 after a 52-yard gain. On the next play from scrimmage, Ray Shreckengost took the handoff from Bain but he fumbled before he could reach the goal line and the Falcon Knights' Chalmers recovered the fumble in the end zone for the touchback with 1:43 left in the first half.
"Football is such a game of momentum and you have to find ways to stop the momentum and I thought we did a great job hitting that swing pass to (Brenden Shreckengost) to take it down to the two but then we fumbled giving the momentum back to (Union/A-C Valley," Gold said.
The Falcon Knights drove into Redbank Valley territory on the ensuing drive. Dittman connected with Roxbury for a 15-yard gain while flinging a 13-yard pass to Ryan Cooper. Later, Dittman connected with Rainey for gains of 9 and 7 yards. However, the Falcon Knights drive was snuffed out with 16 seconds left in the half when Zeldon Fisher picked off a Dittman pass at the Bulldog 32.
The Falcon Knights opened the second half with a six-play, 60-yard march capped by a Dawson Camper 1-yard TD plunge.
Rainey opened the Falcon Knights' march with a 15-yard run. Two plays later, Dittman found Ryan Cooper over the middle and Cooper raced 44 yards where he was pushed out of bounds at the Redbank Valley 1.
The snap was low on the extra-point kick attempt but Ryan Cooper alertly picked up the loose ball and raced around the left side of the Falcon Knights line and into the end zone for the two-point conversion trimming the Redbank Valley lead to 21-15 with 9:09 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs fumbled on the first play of their next possession and the Falcon Knights recovered taking over possession at the Redbank Valley 37.
The Falcon Knights scored 10 plays later when Dittman threw a 10-yard strike to Ryan Cooper for the touchdown.
The Falcon Knights were aided by penalties by the Bulldogs as Redbank Valley committed an offsides violation on a fourth-and-short play and later committed a pass interference putting the Falcon Knights at the Redbank Valley 11.
Ryan Cooper had four catches for 80 yards and the score.
Murray's extra-point kick went wide right but the score was tied with 4:49 left in the quarter.
A key to the Falcon Knights comeback was the play of offensive tackles Landon Chalmers and Carter Terwint who kept the Bulldogs' defensive end tandem of Joe Mansfield and Brandon Ross from penetrating the Union/A-C Valley pass pocket.
"Not to take anything away from (Mansfield and Ross) but we had (Chalmers and Terwint) on our edges and we thought we could handle them one-on-one," Dittman said.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out on their following drive and the Falcon Knights opened their next possession with Rainey dashing through the Bulldog defense for a 19-yard gain. But on the next possession, Camper fumbled after a 3-yard gain and Minich pounced on the loose ball at midfield.
The Bulldogs couldn't capitalize on the turnover and were forced to punt.
The Falcon Knights converted one first down on the following possession but Union/A-C Valley couldn't sustain the drive and were forced to punt from its own 22.
Crissman unleashed a 46-yard punt and the Bulldogs took over possession at their own 32.
Bain opened the drive with back-to-back completions to Minich and Ashton Kahle for 6 and 27 yards putting the Bulldogs at the Union/A-C Valley 35.
Bain completed 18-of-27 passes for 286 yards and a score.
"Bryson Bain put together a phenomenal effort the whole year just to get us here," Gold said.
Ray Shreckengost ran for gains of 18 and 7 yards on back-to-back carries giving the Bulldogs a second-and-3 at the Union/A-C Valley 13. On the next play, Bain attempted a pop pass to Marshall who came in motion behind the line of scrimmage but Union/A-C Valley's Peter Hardy burst through the line to drop Marshall for an 8-yard loss. Bain's third down pass fell incomplete. On fourth down, Bain lofted a pass down the left sideline that Minich pulled in just before it glanced off the turf for a 12-yard gain giving the Bulldogs a first-and-goal at the Falcon Knight 9. Gunner Mangiantini ran for 3 yards on a quarterback keeper and Ray Shreckengost got the Bulldogs to the Union/A-C Valley 1 with a 5-yard gain. On third down, Mangiantini was stopped for no gain but Ray Shreckengost got the Bulldogs to pay dirt when he barreled into the end zone from the 1.
Adams added the extra-point giving the Bulldogs a 28-21 lead with 4:39 remaining in regulation.
Rainey opened the ensuing drive with a 2-yard gain and Dittman followed with a 2-yard completion to Roxbury. On third down, the Bulldogs brought a blitz and Dittman let loose a pass to avoid the rush but his desperation throw fell incomplete. Coach Dittman decided to punt since he had all three of his timeouts.
The Falcon Knights couldn't stop the Bulldogs as Mangiantini converted two first downs on quarterback runs to seal the win for the Bulldogs.
Redbank Valley will take on District 5 champ Northern Bedford in the PIAA quarterfinals Friday (Nov. 26) at Clarion University's Memorial Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. The Bulldogs met Northern Bedford in the PIAA first round last season with Redbank Valley coming away with a 28-15 win at Windber.
Union/A-C Valley finishes its season with a 9-3 record.
This was the Falcon Knights first trip to the District 9 Class A championship and Dittman hopes the experience from the loss can pay dividends in the future.
"These young guys know what we have to do to get here," Dittman said. "We have a great core of guys back for next year and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do."
REDBANK VALLEY 28 , UNION/A-C VALLEY 21
Union/A-C Valley 0- 7- 14 -0 21
Redbank Valley 21- 0- 0 -7 28
RV Chris Marshall 64 pass from Bryson Bain (Tyson Adams kick), 11:11
RV Ray Shreckengost 10 run (Adams kick), 4:18
RV Carsen Rupp 30 blocked punt return (Adams kick), 2:44
U/AC Skyler Roxbury 12 pass from Brody Dittman (Colton Murray kick), 4:27
U/AC Dawson Camper 1 run (Ryan Cooper run), 9:09
U/AC Cooper 10 pass from Dittman (kick failed), 4:49
RV Shreckengost 1 run (Adams kick), 4:39
TEAM TOTALS (Union/A-C Valley; Redbank Valley)
First Downs: 12; 12
Rushes-Yards: 16-87; 29-93
Passing Yards: 211; 286
Comp-Att-Int: 16-25-1; 18-27-0
Total Yards: 298; 379
Penalties-Yards: 7-54; 7-72
Fumbles-Lost: 3-1; 2-2
Rushing Union/A-C Valley, Caden Rainey 5-23, Mikey Card 4-17, Dawson Camper 14-28, Bailey Crissman 1-9, Ryan Cooper 2-6, Andrew Verostek 2-7, Brody Dittman 1- (-3). Redbank Valley, Ray Shreckengost 17-91, Brenden Shreckengost 2-(-3), Bryson Bain 2-(-12), Gunner Mangiantini 4-22, Team 4-(-5).
Passing Union/A-C Valley, Brody Dittman 15-22-1 173, Ryan Cooper 1-1-0 38, Bailey Crissman 0-2-0 0. Redbank Valley, Bryson Bain 18-27-0 286.
Receiving Caden Rainey 5-41, Skyler Roxbury 5-76, Ryan Cooper 4-80, Mikey Card 1-12, Andrew Verostek 1-2. Redbank Valley, Chris Marshall 6-92, Tate Minich 3-16, Aiden Ortz 3-32, Ashton Kahle 3-70, Mason Clouse 1-11, Brenden Shreckengost 1-52, Tate Minich 2-13.