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HERSHEY-BOUND! Redbank Valley Forces Five Turnovers in 23-14 Win Over Bishop Canevin to Punch Ticket to PIAA Class A Championship Game

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Chris Marshall read the eyes of Bishop Canevin quarterback Jason Cross and broke on the ball.

In a dead sprint he intercepted the pass at the 3 and sprinted 97 yards for a touchdown that turned what could have been a 21-7 hole for the Redbank Valley football team into a 14-14 deadlock midway through the third quarter.

“I knew right where he was going with the ball — I saw the dude coming across the middle,” Marshall said, grinning from ear to ear. “Picked it off and took it to the crib.

“I knew at about the 35 or 40 no one was catching me.”

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

The play swung momentum squarely to Redbank Valley sideline and the Bulldogs maintained it the rest of the way, moving ahead 21-14 on a 1-yard run by Boo Shreckengost and then putting the game away when Joe Mansfield — a terror all night at defensive end — sacked freshman quarterback Kole Olszewski in the end zone for a safety with five minutes to play in the game for a 23-14 win in the PIAA Class A semifinals Friday night at North Hills’ Martorelli Stadium.

The win sends the Bulldogs to Hershey and the state championship game against Bishop Guilfoyle at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Redbank Valley is the first District 9 team to make it to a PIAA title game in football since Smethport did it in 1992.

“These kids,” said Redbank Valley coach Blane Gold, pausing to collect himself. “It’s such a testament to these kids. We’ve been through some stuff emotionally this past month and it’s been self-inflicted. For these guys to weather that emotion and do this, it’s amazing.”

The win is also the 13th in a row for Redbank Valley (13-1), which lost the season-opener to Keystone, 22-20.

A loss like that could have made for a long season for the Bulldogs. A loss like that could have set a negative tone, but Redbank Valley regrouped and now are one victory away from a state championship.

“That opening-season loss to Keystone — I was worried I was going to lose these guys,” Gold said. “And here we are heading to Hershey.”

Redbank Valley had been tested in the District 9 and state playoffs heading into this game and was tested again by Bishop Canevin (13-2), the WPIAL champions.

The Bulldogs fell behind 14-0. Cross hit Xavier Nelson on a 77-yard touchdown pass to give Canevin a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The Crusaders added another score on a 1-yard sneak by Cross with a little more than nine minutes remaining in the second quarter for a two-touchdown lead.

Redbank Valley, though, had been here before. In the district playoffs, the Bulldogs trailed Port Allegany 14-0 before rallying to win. Against Union/A-C Valley, they watched a 21-0 lead evaporate and had to rally for a victory. Even last week against Northern Bedford County, they trailed 7-0 and 14-7 before coming back to notch the triumph.

That experience paid off big time against Bishop Canevin.

Panic? What’s that?

“We knew this was going to be a dogfight,” Shreckengost said. “We like our chances in dogfight games.”

Of course they do … they’re Bulldogs after all.

“I can’t stress enough how much our schedule in District 9 prepared us,” Gold said. “We had a slugfest with (Union/A-C Valley). We had a slugfest with Port Allegany. If we don’t learn how to overcome 14-point deficit against Port, if we don’t learn how to put together a game-winning drive against Union, we may not overcome this. We thought the one advantage we had was if we could make this a one-score game in the fourth quarter, we’d have the advantage because they haven’t played that.”

Bryson Bain got the comeback started by leading a nine-play, 60-yard drive that he finished with a 5-yard touchdown scramble. Bain was nearly sacked, but escaped, broke a tackle and lowered his head to get into the end zone.

Bain, a senior in his first year of high school football, started slowly, missing on seven of his first eight passes — including an interception — but he heated up after that and finished with 148 yards passing. He completed passes to seven different players.

“This was his gutsiest performance of the season,” Gold said.

Redbank Valley was finding success on quick slants. Marshall caught four of them over the middle for 60 yards.

Still Bishop Canevin was in control and driving for a score when Marshall made the biggest play of the game with his pick-6.

“Chris Marshall is a stud,” Gold said. “That’s why he’s starting to get PSAC calls for football. He was a guy who wasn’t even playing football three years ago. Football is such a game of momentum and that’s what he did. He shifted momentum.”

Bishop Canevin turned the ball over on its next two possessions as well. Cross threw his third interception of the game on his next pass attempt and running back Jaiden Torres fumbled at midfield the next time the Crusaders had the ball.

Redbank Valley took advantage of that blunder, driving 57 yards in 10 plays, capped by the 1-yard run by Shreckengost, to go up 21-14 just 31 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Mansfield, though, dealt the death blow when he notched the safety on the sack.

Mansfield was getting pressure all game and also drew several holding calls.

“They couldn’t block him,” Gold said.

Instead, they held him — a lot.

Bishop Canevin was penalized 16 times for 130 yards. That put the Crusaders in some daunting down-and-distance situations. Canevin faced a third-and-30, a second-and-34 and a second-and-27 during the game.

The Crusaders also had five turnovers.

Mansfield realized he could not be blocked early.

“The first snap,” Mansfield said. “That safety, I knew we weren’t done yet — I told the guys not to celebrate too early, but we felt pretty good.”

Redbank Valley also played with a chip on their collective shoulders, especially the defense.

Bishop Canevin has staked its claim to the best defense in Class A on the western side of the state. The Bulldogs wanted to prove that assumption wrong.

“I thought it was crazy,” Mansfield said. “I think we’re the best. That was motivation right there.”

Marshall put the finishing touches on the win with his second pick of the game with less than two minutes remaining. That’s when Redbank Valley could exhale.

The Bulldogs were going to Hershey.

“I don’t even know if I have the words to describe it,” said Shreckengost, who finished with 75 yards rushing. He entered last week with just 55 yards rushing all season. “We’re going and we’re going with the intention of winning it.”

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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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