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Better Late Than Never: Marshall, Gardlock and Bain May Have Come Late to the Redbank Valley Party, but Have Made Huge Impact

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Three years ago, Redbank Valley seniors Chris Marshall, Bryson Bain and Marquese Gardlock were not football players.

Other sports dominated their time.

(Above, Marquese Gardlock tries to make a tackle during the PIAA Class A semifinal win over Bishop Canevin/Photo by Madison McFarland)

For Marshall, it was basketball. The 6-foot-3 wunderkind was already a standout on the hardwood. Soon, he’d become an internet star with videos of his dunks making the rounds.

For Bain, it was baseball. With his electric right arm, Bain was angling for a college pitching scholarship. He eventually snagged one this summer from Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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For the 6-5 Gardlock, it was also basketball. But he’d have to wait a bit, sitting out a year after transferring from Farrell to Redbank before making a big impact as a junior in 2020-21.

Now all three are huge pieces of a Bulldogs’ team that has made it all the way to the PIAA Class A football championship game against Bishop Guilfoyle.

“I’m so grateful (Redbank Valley coach Blane Gold) got me to come out, me and my brother (Marquese),” Marshall said. “It’s a blessing. I was always a basketball guy. Now I’m getting football looks in college. It has opened up everything.”

Gold is a teacher in the Redbank Valley High School. That enabled him to lobby for Marshall and Gardlock to come out for the team before last season.

Eventually, his sales pitch swayed them.

Gardlock, who couldn’t play any sport at Redbank as a sophomore because of PIAA transfer rules, was the first on board. Marshall followed quickly.

“You can’t underestimate the power of having a teacher in the same school they coach in,” said Gold, who teaches senior government and economics and junior sociology and psychology at Redbank. “I mean, it’s irreplaceable.”

Marshall was devoted to basketball and hadn’t played football since junior high. There was an even bigger gap for Gardlock — he hadn’t put a football helmet on since the sixth grade.

“I just kept talking to them and talking to them and just kind of reminding them of how they can help us,” Gold said. “Marquese reminds me quite often that he was the first person to make the the choice to play and then Chris played because he played.”

It was kind of a package deal.

Now Marshall and Gardlock are two of the biggest impact players on the Bulldog roster.

(Chris Marshall raises his arms in triumph/photo by Madison McFarland)

Marshall made a play in the PIAA Class A semifinal against Bishop Canevin that will long be a part of Redbank Valley football lore. With the Crusaders driving to potentially take a two-touchdown lead in the second half, Marshall swooped in on a dead run to make an interception at his own 3 and sprinted 97 yards for a touchdown.

Along the way, as he ran down the Redbank sideline, he pointed at the Bulldog faithful in the stands at North Hills’ Martorielli Stadium in celebration of a play that completely flipped the script on the game and was the fuel that propelled Redbank into the state title game, where they will face another Bishop — Guilfoyle — at 1 p.m. Thursday in Hershey.

“He delivered Friday night the biggest moment in the history of any sport here,” Gold said. “It ranks as probably one of the top moments in the history of District 9.

“That was the result of him simply making the decision and saying ‘Yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll play football,’” Gold added. “You know, so many people kind of get caught up in the chase of scholarships and chasing this and chasing that, but at the end of the day, it’s about making memories and having fun with your best friends.”

Marshall missed several games due to an ankle injury this season. Now healthy, he’s made a big impact down the stretch.

Gardlock has been the definition of a shutdown corner for the Redbank Valley defense.

Both of them have also been huge weapons in the passing game for another late arrival to the football program.

Bain tried to join the football team as a sophomore, but an elbow injury ended that dream. Two years later, Bain decided to try again and came to Gold asking for a chance to compete at quarterback.

Redbank Valley was already deep at that position with starter Gunner Mangiantini trying to come back from a knee injury as a senior and junior Cam Wagner, who won a playoff game in relief.

(Bryson Bain, left, celebrates with Boo Shreckengost/photo by Madison McFarland)

Gold gave Bain a shot and Bain eventually won the job.

He had growing pains, especially in a loss in Week 1 to Keystone. But as the season has progressed, the 6-foot-3 Bain — who is also a star on the basketball court — got better and better.

He unveiled a new threat to his game Friday against Canevin, scrambling for a touchdown in which he broke several tackles and put his head down, banging into the end zone, for Redbank’s first score.

“He put his body on the line,” Gold said. “Chris and Quese are his close friends on the basketball team, and they like to point out how slow he is. But at the same time, when you see Bryson when he pulls it, even if he only gets three or four yards, that’s a big deal because it makes the other team second-guess.

“We’ve been harping on him all season to pull it, pull it, pull it and then all of a sudden on the biggest stage, he starts pulling it,” Gold added.

Bain has also gotten better at reading the defense.

One of the biggest plays Friday came after Bain was sacked on back-to-back plays. Facing a third-and-20 at his own 48, Bain found a wide-open Aiden Ortz for a 27-yard pass to keep the drive alive.

Five plays later, Boo Shreckengost scored from the 1 to give Redbank a 21-14 lead in the 23-14 triumph.

“That’s another area of growth we’ve seen from him,” Gold said. “Early on, he was just looking for Marquese and Chris all the time — see a one-on-one matchup, throw it up to one of them.”

Who knows where Redbank Valley would have been this season without its three late arrivals. After all, the Bulldogs did make the District 9 championship game in 2019 without Marshall, Gardlock or Bain.

Gold is glad he didn’t have to find out. Having those three certainly hasn’t hurt.

“Those guys have gave us an element of the game that we didn’t have,” Gold said. “(Marshall and Gardlock) gave us the height and speed and athleticism that we were just missing. The first day of camp, they came walking down the hill, and it changed everything for us.”

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

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