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Union/A-C Valley Capitalizes on Cameron County Mistakes for 31-6 Playoff Victory

RIMERSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It wasn’t the start Union/A-C Valley football coach Brad Dittman was hoping for.

Not even close.

Cameron County began the game with an 11-play, 62-yard drive that ate up more than half of the first quarter. Dylan Reider galloped 20 yards for a touchdown for the Red Raiders and the Falcon Knights were staring at an early 6-0 hole before their offense had even taken the field.

A quick three-and-out and Cameron County had the ball back again.

That, though, is when things began to tilt in favor of No. 2 seed Union/A-C Valley. A poor snap on a punt gave the Falcon Knights the ball at the Cameron County 13. Two plays later Bailey Crissman hit Ryan Cooper on a bubble screen against a Red Raider blitz for a 14-yard score and a 6-6 deadlock.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

That got Union/A-C Valley rolling on the way to a 31-6 triumph on its home field Friday night in the first round of the District 9 Class A playoffs.

“We just settled in,” Dittman said. “We didn’t do a lot differently. I think we got a little more aggressive there after that first drive. Our kids settled in and started to get a little more disciplined.”

And a lot of breaks.

Seventh-seeded Cameron County (5-5) had another big mistake on special teams when it muffed a punt at its own 3. Andrew Verostek plowed into the end zone from the 5 to give the Falcon Knights a 12-6 lead.

“Special teams, man,” lamented Cameron County coach Ryan Neyman. “Special teams killed us.”

So did the quarterback tandem of Crissman and Brody Dittman.

Coach Dittman used both quarterbacks effectively throughout the game.

Crissman was 7 of 18 for 125 yards and a score and Dittman was 3 of 4 for 65 yards and also connected on a 20-yard TD to Dawson Camper with 21 seconds left in the first half to send Union/A-C Valley into the break with a 24-6 lead.

“We had a plan to work them both in there,” Coach Dittman said. “We did that last week and it worked out pretty well for us. I think both of them are doing some some good things. Both of them are doing some bad things. We’ll see how that progresses here after we watch film.”

The Falcon Knights scored two touchdowns in the final 91 seconds of the first half to essentially put the game away. Mikey Card’s 28-yard run up the gut for a TD with 1:11 left in the second quarter made it 18-6 followed by the Dittman connection with Camper.

“We wanted to be aggressive there at the end of the first half and score points if we could get them,” Coach Dittman said. “We were fortunate enough to do it. That was big momentum going into the second half, putting in those two touchdowns.”

It was a backbreaker for Cameron County, a team that relies heavily on the running game.

After the first drive, Union/A-C Valley’s defense stiffened. Cameron County had just 69 yards of offense after that initial drive.

“We’re a running team — 70% of the time we are on the ground,” Neyman said. “When we’re forced to the air, we’re just not there yet. We have a sophomore quarterback (Maddox Baughman) and he’ll get better.”

Union/A-C Valley put an exclamation point on the victory on a 1-yard run by Dittman early in the fourth quarter.

Cooper had three receptions for 62 yards and Caden Rainey also had three catches for 53 yards, including a leaping 29-yard grab that keyed a scoring drive late in the first half.

Card and Camper combined for 88 yards rushing as Cameron County loaded the box and run blitzed throughout the game to take away the run.

It’s the first playoff win for Union/A-C Valley (8-2), which was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for three straight seasons.

The Union and A-C Valley football programs consolidated in 2016.

“We’ve been one-and-out the past three years, so to put ourselves at the No. 2 seed and have a home playoff game … I’m super proud of these kids,” Coach Dittman said.

Cameron County was making its first playoff appearance in more than a decade. The last three years, the Red Raiders were 1-24 and had a 20-game losing streak before a breakout campaign this fall.

“Each and every one of these seniors started off winning only one game since freshman year,” Neyman said. “Coming out and making the playoffs this year was a dream come true for them.”

Union/A-C Valley will get another home game next week against third-seeded Smethport, which pulled away from Curwensville late for a 46-27 win.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.