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Mangiantini Embracing New Roles With Redbank Valley Football Team

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Gunner Mangiantini knew something was up.

He and fellow senior Bryson Bain were brought into a meeting with Redbank Valley head football coach Blane Gold and assistant coach Jason Kundick after a practice late in camp.

Mangiantini, Bain, and junior Cam Wagner were engaged in a three-headed quarterback battle.

It was time to make a decision.

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Mangiantini was the incumbent, a two-year starter who had been stricken with some lousy luck. His sophomore season was ended by a broken collar bone and his junior campaign was brought to a sudden halt by a torn ACL suffered while leading the Bulldogs to a win in the District 9 Class A championship game last year.

Gold and the coaching staff decided Bain would be the primary quarterback.

“Nine years of coaching, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Gold said. “I love the kid to death. I don’t know if without Gunner we (would have won) the district championship last year because he scored all three touchdowns — he threw two and ran one and tore his ACL in the process. I mean, he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do.”

Mangiantini understood. Bain, in his first year of playing football since junior high, had the stronger arm and the ability to get the ball to the wealth of playmakers on the outside.

Still, it hurt.

“At first, I was a little sad,” Mangiantini said. “I’ve been playing quarterback my whole life.”

Once his initial gut reaction wore off, Mangiantini refocused on helping the team — no matter where that would be.

“I was like whatever works,” he said. “Whatever I can do to help the team out, I’m all for it.”

Turns out, that’s meant pretty much doing everything.

Special teams? Check. Fullback? Check. Long snapper — what? Yeah, that, too.

Oh, and he still plays some quarterback, especially on 2-point conversion plays.

“In practice, we were trying to figure out who can be the long-snapper,” Mangiantini said. “I told Gold, ‘Let me try it.’ It was perfect and he was like, ‘Well, you just got the job.’”

Mangiantini said long-snapping isn’t as difficult as it looks, especially for a quarterback.

“It’s just like throwing a pass,” Mangiantini said. “It’s just thrown between your legs.”

Mangiantini has shown he is pretty good at throwing passes the traditional way, too. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior is a threat with his arm and legs when he does line up at QB.

He has 1,387 yards passing and 16 touchdowns in his career. He’s also rushed for 588 yards and nine scores.

This year, his specialty has been on 2-point conversions, which Redbank Valley runs often after touchdowns.

“Those two points can make a difference in a close game,” Mangiantini said. “Having the team put that all on me — I’m kinda liking having that on my back.”

Mangiantini is just happy to be on the field in any capacity after the painful injuries he suffered the last two seasons.

Last year was the most difficult after playing so well all season and in the playoffs.

“It was hard,” Mangiantini said. “I knew I tore (my ACL) and I was like, ‘Oh, great, another season-ending injury.’ But in the offseason, I went to physical therapy and my physical therapist was saying everything’s looking good. Honestly, it’s better than my right knee. It’s a lot stronger, and I can move better.”

Mangiantini still wears a brace on the left knee, but that’s more out of precaution than anything else.

The injuries have shaped Mangiantini’s future plans, however.

He doesn’t think he will play football at the next level, instead choosing to focus solely on academics.

“I thought about it, but with the injuries I’ve had, I don’t know if that’s what I want to do,” Mangiantini said.

That made Senior Night Friday even more emotional for Mangiantini.

It hit him. Hard. Harder than any defensive player ever has. It was likely the last game he would play on his home field.

“When the clock hit zeros, all the emotions started flooding in,” Mangiantini said. “This may be the last time I’m on this field with my friends.”

Mangiantini has also made sure to relish every experience he’s had on the football field this season.

He knows more than most how precious that can be.

“I love doing everything I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed playing all the different positions.”

Mangiantini has also helped Bain get acclimated with the offense. He’s always the first one to greet him when he comes off the field, and they go over things over the course of a game.

“(Bryson) came in and learned it quickly,” Mangiantini said. “The first couple of games he was making reads and seeing things that I wasn’t seeing. I was like, ‘Oh, wow.’ You would have thought he was playing all his life.”

Bain is having a stellar season for Redbank Valley (7-1), which faces a showdown with Union/A-C Valley this Friday. Bain has thrown for 1,132 yards and 21 touchdowns so far this year.

Gold said that, while Mangiantini has undoubtedly been a big asset to Bain, the first-year starter has dedicated himself wholly to the position, too, and has picked things up rapidly.

“I gotta give Bryson his due,” Gold said. “He came in and he won the job and has gotten better every single week. I’m so happy for Bryson’s success because he worked his tail off, and he’s earned every single bit of it.”

Mangiantini said that he hopes he can help Redbank play deep into the postseason again.

No matter what that role is.

Gold is just happy to have him. Period.

“He shows up every single day for practice, and he’s running the scout team with enthusiasm and excitement,” Gold said. “He’s handled the situation and has stayed ready, so I can’t say anything more positive about the kid. The way that he practices, the way that he plays, every team in America would be better off having Gunner Mangianti on their team.”

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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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