NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Joe Mansfield is fond of the nickname.
It’s one that has been well-earned because of his penchant for wrecking offenses as a defensive end for the Redbank Valley football team.
It’s a fitting moniker, too.
Often, there’s nothing an opposing team can do to keep the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Mansfield out of their backfield and off their quarterback.
“We call him ‘Cheat Code,’” said Redbank Valley football coach Blane Gold. “Sometimes the teams we play, it’s just not fair.”
Mansfield, who will be a senior this fall for the Bulldogs, has already piled up some gaudy statistics.
He has 171 tackles, 24.5 sacks, and 37 tackles for a loss in his career. He had 9.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss in just eight games last season, which earned him a spot on the all-state first team in Class A.
Not bad for someone who never played a sport — any sport — until the seventh grade.
“I just never really had any interest until then,” Mansfield said. “When I started football, it was really hard to understand some of the stuff at first, so they decided I should just play defense.”
Mansfield made an immediate impact on that side of the ball as a freshman at Redbank Valley.
Gold, who played on the defensive line at Franklin High School and then at Grove City College, knew a thing or two about what it takes to succeed in the trenches. It didn’t take him long to notice Mansfield had a set of intriguing, raw skills.
“When he came in as a freshman, he was this tall, gangly kid; We really didn’t know what we had,” Gold said. “In his very first varsity game, he came off the bench (in passing situations) and had three sacks in about 10 to 15 snaps. We knew we had something special.”
What has made Mansfield virtually impossible to block is his blend of quickness and leverage when coming off the edge.
“He has incredible bend at the waist,” Gold said. “If you’re a pass rusher, that means he’s able to dip underneath the arms and shoulders (of the offensive tackle). You mix that with his ability to come around the edge with his speed and his quickness getting off the ball, and it’s pretty lethal.”
Mansfield admits much of what he does is still pure instinct.
It’s worked for him so far. Mansfield has earned all-state recognition in Class A for three straight years, the first player in the 98-year history of the Redbank program to make multiple all-state teams.
“It just comes naturally to me,” he said. “There are times I’m making a move before I even know what I’m doing or going to do. It’s really fun to line up against other people and see what I can do against them.
“I realized I’m faster than 90% of the linemen,” Mansfield added. “I use my speed, and I’m pretty flexible.”
As a sophomore, Mansfield played quarterback in wildcat packages and was also a slot receiver, catching 15 passes for 117 yards.
He was in the offensive mix last season, but a knee injury suffered in Week 2 shelved those plans.
Quite simply, Mansfield was just too valuable on defense to risk on offense for Redbank Valley, which had ample weapons already on that side of the ball during a 7-1, playoff campaign.
Mansfield said he feared the worst when he was initially hurt. He wouldn’t have played in Week 3 had the Bulldogs’ game against Sheffield not been canceled, but he returned the following week against Union/A-C Valley and had 10 tackles and one sack in the 10-7 win.
The highlight of the year was Redbank’s 28-12 win over Coudersport, a team that had sliced through the Bulldogs’ defense with a triple-option attack in the previous three meetings, all lopsided losses.
Mansfield made sure to study that offense whenever he could leading up to that game to make sure his team wasn’t on the wrong side of another rout.
“I watched film in some study halls,” Mansfield said. “I watched film when I got home at night after practices. I started looking at (the quarterback’s) footwork and his eyes — I was watching where his eyes were going.”
Mansfield came a long way from his early playing days when he struggled with nuisances like that.
“He became a student of the game and learned how to defend that (triple option) properly,” Gold said. “I say he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet because he’s so good at taking his perceived weaknesses and turning them into his strengths.”
Mansfield, who also excels at track and field at Redbank, is slated to play more on offense this season now that he’s healthy again.
“I’m pretty excited to do it,” he said. “Last year, I was looking forward to playing on offense and then I had that injury. That really stunk. This offense we’re going to have this year is going to be one of the best offenses that we’ve had in a while.”
Mansfield is also an avid gamer. When he visited Glenville State recently, he spoke with the football coach there as well as the eSports coach.
Mansfield, though, has received very little college interest in football. Most of the schools recruiting him are for track and field.
No matter. Mansfield has stopped worrying about things like that.
Instead, he wants to be a source of extreme consternation on Friday nights.
“I mean, it kind of surprised me that I wasn’t getting a lot of football looks,” he said. “At one point, I was kind of upset. But, I realized that I had only been to one football camp, and I couldn’t go to some others because of track and other things. So, I kinda understand why I’m not getting contacted. I’m just not going to let that stuff upset me. I just want to have some fun and get some W’s in my last year.”