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Battle in New Bethlehem: Redbank Valley Welcomes Rival Keystone in Clash of Undefeated Teams

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — A lot has changed for both the Keystone and Redbank Valley football teams since Week 1 of last season when they met in a thriller.

(Above, Aiden Ortz makes a leaping grab against Punxsutawney last week/photo by Madison McFarland.)

Keystone won that game, 22-20. The victory went a long way in helping the Panthers secure the District 9 Small School Division title.

The game also shaped Redbank’s season.

The Bulldogs rebounded nicely, rolling off 13 straight wins to reach the PIAA Class A championship game, where they lost 21-14 to Bishop Guilfoyle.

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

But when the two teams clash again on the banks of the Redbank Creek on Friday, they will share little resemblance to the ones who played each other 13 months ago.

“We talked about last season and that opening-game loss to them,” said Redbank Valley coach Blane Gold. “I don’t know if we would have gotten to Hershey without that loss. Everything else is behind us. That game is reserved for 2021. Keystone has a new coaching staff with a new philosophy and there’s not a whole lot of carryover from that game last year.”

Todd Smith took over for Ryan Smith in the offseason after spending the last two years at as the offensive coordinator at Butler in District 7.

Smith has Keystone at 3-0 this season with a pair of come-from-behind wins, including last week against Brookville.

The Panthers trailed 12-0 at one point and used a fake on an extra point attempt for a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter to win 20-19.

“The guys have done a really good job,” Smith said. “Brookville has a big, strong team and we knew they were going to be tough and our guys didn’t give up. We were able to just stick with it and get that win. That was a quality win against a good football team.”

Redbank Valley (3-0) also got a quality win against a staunch opponent last week, downing Punxsutawney, 28-14.

Special teams keyed the victory for the Bulldogs as Mason Clouse returned a punt for a touchdown and Ashton Kahle set up another score with a punt return to the Punxsy 2.

Each week a different phase has stood out for Redbank Valley. In Week 1, it was the offense. Week 2, the defense. In Week 3, special teams.

“We’re going to hang our hat on that we have a scrappy group of kids that have a lot of experience. That’s what we’re going to rest our laurels on,” Gold said. “We have guys who have played a lot of football games and been in a lot of games where they’ve just had to find ways to win. That’s really our calling card. We’re a scrappy group of kids who just want to make sure at the end of Friday night that we win football games.”

Redbank Valley is certainly scrappy, but the Bulldogs are also very dangerous offensively.

Cam Wagner has put up some big numbers this season in his first year as the starting quarterback. the senior is completing nearly 73% of his passes for 650 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 127 yards on 12 carries.

Drew Byers leads the Bulldogs on the ground with 248 yards on just 37 attempts. Tate Minich is the leading receiver with 16 receptions for 216 yards and three scores.

Aiden Ortz (12 catches for 223 yards and four TDs) and Kahle (eight grabs for 126 yards and two scores) are also prime receiving threats.

“Redbank is a really good team with a lot of team speed,” Smith said.

(Tyler Albright carries the ball for Keystone against Union/A-C Valley/photo by Stephanie Crissman)

Keystone also has a potent attack led by Kyle Nellis and Tyler Albright.

Nellis has 392 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Albright has added 275 rushing yards on just 24 carries and a TD and has also caught six passes for 153 yards and two more scores.

Those guys have been able to put up those kinds of numbers because of Keystone’s strength up front.

“It’s another test for our guys,” Gold said. “It’s the third straight week we’ve played a big, physical line.”

“Everybody talks about Kyle and Tyler and they should, but our offensive line has just done an incredible job,” Smith said.

Keystone threw the ball more than it had in the first two games last week against Brookville. Part of that was what the Raiders’ defense was giving the Panthers.

First-year starting quarterback Rayce Weaver acquitted himself well.

Weaver was 5 of 11 for 132 yards and a touchdown in the win.

For the season, he’s 10 of 23 for 226 yards.

“We knew Rayce could do that — he threw the ball well in Week 1,” Smith said. “Rayce will continue to get better every week. He’s a winner.”

Redbank Valley’s strength on defense is its secondary with Minich, Ortz and Kahle.

“We feel confident with our secondary,” Gold said. “We like our matchups against teams.”

This is a rivalry game and in rivalry games, unexpected things happen.

Both coaches are cognizant of that.

“We’re just trying to get better every week,” Smith said. “Obviously we know what (Redbank) did last year and what they’ve done so far this year. You can’t take a break in any of the three phases against them. We know what we have to do. We have to be ready to play.”

Friday night’s game will be featured on Kerle Tire Game of the Week.

The Kerle Tire Pregame Show will start at 6:30 p.m. followed by kickoff at 7:00 p.m. with the area’s favorite broadcast team, Mike Kalinowski and Bob “The Governor” Dunkle, on the call.


The video feed can be found at,, and

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