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Clash of the Titans: Redbank Valley Hosts Karns City in Battle of Two-Time Defending District 9 Champions

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Redbank Valley football coach Blane Gold isn’t falling for it.

(Photo by Madison McFarland)

Sure, the Bulldogs’ opponent this week, Karns City, fell to DuBois in its season-opener, 28-7.

Sure, the Gremlins lost two 1,000-yard rushers and their entire offensive line to graduation after a 11-2 campaign a year ago.

And, sure, Redbank rolled to a 53-8 win over Smethport in its first game of the season behind a nearly flawless performance from quarterback Cam Wagner and the offense.

But …

“They’re still Karns City,” Gold said.

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

When the Gremlins come to New Bethlehem for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday night, they will arrive as the two-time defending District 9 Class 2A champions.

Waiting for them will be the Bulldogs, the two-time defending District 9 Class A champions.

This year, Gold hopes to take advantage of the mental edge his team has from playing in so many high-leverage games in the past.

That won’t happen this week, though; Karns City’s players have the same big-game experience as the Bulldogs do.

“The unique thing about this game is their seniors and juniors have as many District 9 gold medals as our juniors and seniors,” Gold said. “This is a matchup where we can’t say that we have a mental edge because they are the reigning two-time champions in double-A and we are the reigning two time champions in single-A.

“That’s going to be an interesting challenge for us,” Gold added. “They are equal in what they have been able to accomplish in winning district championship and let’s see who can prevail in that matchup.”

Redbank prevailed last week with an offense that already looked in midseason form.

Wagner, a senior who bided his time for this shot, was 8 of 9 for 228 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 34 yards and a score.

His stable of speedy wideouts did plenty of damage and sophomore running back Drew Byers ran for 134 yards on nine carries, which included a 92-yard TD run.

“I really want to give a lot of credit to Cam and our guys because there was some really sloppy stuff that we did in the scrimmage, and those guys looked good,” Gold said. “We did get better up front, but there’s definitely some things that we can do better in the run game.”

Gold realized the sledding will be a bit more difficult against Karns City this week.

The Gremlins are very much a sleeping giant.

“You know, at some point, whether it’s Friday night, whether it’s two weeks from now or five weeks from now, the one thing that you can say is Karns City is not going to be losing to teams 28-7 for very long,” Gold said. “They are going to put things together.”

Karns City coach Joe Sherwin certainly hopes that will come this week.

Sherwin said a month ago that the early part of the season was going to feature some trial and error as he and his staff sort out the personnel they have and get them into the roles where they can excel.

Three turnovers torpedoed whatever chance the Gremlins had last week against DuBois, but the coach said he saw some encouraging things, even in a defeat.

“You’re certainly disappointed, but then you go back and watch the film,” Sherwin said. “We did a lot of good things and those things are what we’re gonna hang our hats on. We just need to fix some of the mistakes that we made. DuBois played a good game and they deserved to win. I just felt like we shot ourselves in the foot a lot.”

Eric Booher, in his third year as a starter, threw for 125 yards and also rushed for 51 yards and a score. Senior Micah Rupp caught four passes for 72 yards and Mason Martin showed some flashes at running back with 39 yards on the ground on six attempts.

Booher threw the ball 26 times. Part of that was by design. Part of that was falling behind by three scores in the third quarter.

The days of the time-consuming, 15-play, 75-yard drives may be somewhat over for the Gremlins — at least this season.

“We’re a little more balanced offensively than we have been in the past,” Sherwin said. “I don’t know if we’re going to put those types of drives together. We’d like to. That’d be nice, but I don’t know if that’s the reality of the team we have this year.

“We have a quarterback who’s back for this third year and with the receivers that we have, we do want to focus more on our passing game,” Sherwin added.

This will be the first meeting between the two schools since 2017, when Karns City beat Redbank Valley, 42-28, in a wild game in which the Gremlins scored 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points to rally for the victory.

The Gremlins have won the last four meetings dating back to 2010. That was the last Bulldog win, a 28-14 triumph.

Back in 2004, Redbank beat Karns City twice in the same season — a 51-7 rout in September, followed by a 35-14 win in November in the D9 playoffs.

“I’ve missed some of those old matchups that we used to have with Redbank Valley and Keystone and Union/A-C Valley. I think they would have been good natural matchups for us these past few years. It’s good to be able to play those teams again.”

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