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Battle of Wills: Redbank Valley and Port Allegany Have Vastly Different Ways of Getting Things Done

PORT ALLEGANY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It’s going to be a classic clash of styles.

(Above, Redbank Valley’s Tate Minich looks for some yardage/photo by Madison McFarland)

The big-play football team that can score from anywhere on the field against a grind-it-out club that prefers to chew clock and yards a nibble at a time.

When high-powered Redbank Valley (7-0) travels to take on methodical Port Allegany (6-1) on Friday night, something will most certainly have to give.

“I think we’re trying to do what everybody else is trying to do,” said Port Allegany coach Justin Bienkowski. “They’re going to try and take the top off and they’re gonna try to use that electric athleticism and speed and all that. That’s what they do. Well, we want to make the other team play our style, force them to do things they don’t normally want to do.

“It’s gonna be a great chess match,” the Gator coach added. “They’ve worked for their buck. We have mad respect for them. It’s their chest to beat. Their drum to bang. They are the champs until someone knocks them off.”

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

Bienkowski hopes his team can put the first ding in Redbank’s formidable armor in 2022.

Last year in the District 9 Class A playoffs, Port Allegany jumped out to a 14-0 lead and had a chance to make it 21-0 before Redbank settled in on the way to a 35-14 victory.

Bulldog coach Blane Gold expects another tough slog again, this time in McKean County.

“We know what they are capable of doing,” Gold said. “Last year they played against us in a very strong fashion and they have everybody back. They are a very, very, very good and talented football team.”

So is Redbank and they’ve shown the ability to win games in a variety of ways.

But it’s the offensive numbers jump off the page.

Senior Cam Wagner has completed 104-of-147 passes for 1,724 yards and 28 touchdowns this season.

Aiden Ortz and Ashton Kahle each have nine TD receptions and four players have 264 or more receiving yards.

Sophomore running back Drew Byers is also quietly having a strong campaign with 603 yards on the ground and four TDs.

The Bulldogs are averaging 40 points per game and are giving up 13.

The stat sheet doesn’t necessarily light up for Port Allegany, but the results have been similar.

The senior backfield tandem of Blaine Moses and Noah Archer has combined for 1,075 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground.

Senior quarterback Drew Evens has also made some big plays with both his arm and his legs.

(Port Allegany quarterback rolls out and looks for a receiver/photo by Stephanie Crissman)

Evens has completed 63 of 108 for 653 yards and six touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 313 yards and four more scores.

“(Moses) and (Archer) and (Javon Stiles) are phenomenal athletes,” Gold said. “But (Evens) is the reason I’m not sleeping this week. If you look at his passing numbers, they don’t do justice to how good a quarterback he is. I felt that when he left here last year. I felt he was the best quarterback in the northern conference. Noah Lent (at Smethport) was a phenomenal athlete, but as far as quarterback play went, I thought (Evens) was the best quarterback we saw last year.”

Evens has shown a penchant for hitting big passes when Port Allegany has needed it this season.

Make no mistake, though. The Gators are quite content with grinding it out on the ground, particularly against a team like Redbank that is so dangerous when it has possession of the football.

The key has been the play of the offensive line. A young unit that got a lot of experience last year, the Port front has been even more dominant on both sides of the ball this year.

“It’s crazy when you look at it, there’s two sophomores and two juniors on that line,” Gold said. “Defensively, they are able to drop a lot of guys into coverage and get pressure with three or four guys. They’re extremely good up front, extremely good in the trenches, and they shorten football games.”

Port Allegany is averaging 34 points per game on offense and is giving up a mere nine per contest.

The Gators only loss was a 29-24 setback in Week 2 to Central Clarion, which is also 7-0.

Since, Port has won games by scores of 28-0, 46-0, 40-7, 26-6 and 42-14 last week against Union/A-C Valley.

“I’m super proud of the guys because everything that they’ve been successful at, what we’ve been successful at, has been earned from January until Friday night,” Bienkowski said. “We’ve been very workmanlike and that’s the kind of approach we play with.”

Bienkowski said the buzz around town is already palpable.

He also said he is happy the game is at home.

But he’s trying to get his team to treat it like just another game on the schedule.

“This is our most important Week 8 game,” Bienkowski said. “Win or lose, we’re hoping to play them again. You know, you’re not gonna stop them. You’re not gonna stop (Ortz) or (Tate Minich) or (Kahle) or (Wagner) or (Byers). You just have to hope you can slow them down enough and make them do things they don’t feel comfortable with.

“This is going to come down to which team is able to impose their style, because we can’t play theirs and we’re hoping they can’t play ours,” the coach added.

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