NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Redbank Valley’s firm defensive effort and timely playmaking on offense propelled the Bulldogs past Coudersport 28-12 in the D9 Class A Semifinal. The victory puts Redbank Valley in the conference title game against Smethport next Saturday.
Cam Wagner was the surprise hero for Redbank Valley, completing 12 of his 16 passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns. Marquese Gardlock hauled in four catches for 70 yards, while Trenten Rupp snagged three passes for 56 yards. The Bulldogs’ defense had a strong game, forcing four turnovers and stopping Coudersport’s running game with a tremendous push from the defensive line. Hayden Keck threw for 106 yards for Coudersport, and Brandt Kightlinger rushed for 120 yards on 27 carries.
The game opened as a cagey affair, with both teams failing to score in the opening stanza. After Coudersport forced an opening drive punt, the Falcons drove deep into Redbank territory. On third and long in the red zone, Redbank’s Dalton Bish picked off Hayden Keck with a fantastic one-handed catch in the back of the end zone.
Redbank Valley embarked on a drive of their own, progressing deep into Coudersport territory. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Coudersport produced a strip sack on a fourth-and-long, killing the drive and keeping the game scoreless early in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs’ defense produced the next big play of the game when Trenten Rupp picked off a screen pass, returning the ball for a touchdown. A flag on the return negated the score, and after Coudersport forced a fourth-and-long, it seemed as if the Falcons would escape unscathed. However, Wagner connected with Dalton Bish on a bullet pass to score the opening touchdown of the game, putting the Bulldogs up 7-0 with just under 9:00 left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs’ defense had a fantastic game stuffing the Falcons’ inside running attack, and Redbank Valley came up tops again on Coudersport’s third possession, standing tall on a fourth-and-two to force a turnover on downs. Redbank Valley quickly got back on the board, as Wagner connected with Gardlock for a 31-yard touchdown. Landon Pence connected on another PAT to make the score 14-0 with five minutes left in the second half.
After the Bulldogs forced yet another three-and-out with just under 2:00 to go in the second quarter, Wagner hooked up with Rupp on a short out route. Rupp received fantastic downfield blocking, scooting his way down the sidelines for a 54-yard touchdown and increasing the Bulldogs’ lead to 21. Coudersport got their passing game going in an attempt to score a last-minute touchdown, but the clock ran out on the Falcons. Coudersport had two attempts to score from inside the five yard line but were denied each time, ending the first half.
The Redbank Valley dagger came early in the second half, when Coudersport’s first play from scrimmage ended in disaster. An option pitch was batted down by a Redbank defender, and Joe Mansfield scooped up the loose ball and sprinted untouched to the endzone. Pence’s fourth PAT of the night put the Bulldogs up 28-0.
Coudersport embarked on another long drive, but the Bulldogs yet again stood firm inside the red zone, forcing a turnover on downs. The inside defense of Kobe Bonanno was key in stopping the Falcons, and he made a big fourth down tackle to end the drive. Soon after, Coudersport had their first big play of the evening, stripping and recovering a fumble deep in Bulldogs territory. This time, the Falcons punched the ball in the endzone, as Brandt Kightlinger powered in from four yards out to make the score 28-6 after three quarters.
Coudersport got back on the board on their next drive, as Keck connected with Kightlinger for the running back’s second score of the game. The two point try was unsuccessful, and Coudersport made the score 28-12 with seven minutes to go.
A Redbank Valley fumble on the next possession added some late game drama, but the Falcons coughed the ball up right back to the Bulldogs, ending Coudersport’s comeback hopes. A short series of powerful Redbank Valley runs ran down the clock, leaving Coudersport unable to score on their final drive, finalizing the 28-12 score line.
The win will advance the Bulldogs to the D9 Class A Title Game against Smethport. The game will take place on Saturday, October 31 at 1:00pm at Brockway.