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Many Rainey Returns: Union/A-C Valley Senior Among the Best in Nation on Special Teams

RIMERSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Union/A-C Valley coach Brad Dittman would prefer to keep it under wraps, locked away in a vault somewhere.

Don’t talk about it. Don’t acknowledge it.

Well, too late.

The word is out on Caden Rainey and his penchant for game-breaking punt returns.

“We don’t want to put that out there in articles,” Dittman joked. “Let’s just keep that between you and me.

“If they want to keep punting to Caden Rainey, we’ll take it. We’ll take it all day long.”

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

Rainey’s returns have been remarkable this season. He’s averaging a gaudy 31.6 yards per punt return, which ranks in the Top 10 in the nation among high school players.

He’s returned two punts for touchdowns and has threatened to break a few others for long scores.

Rainey has been a difference-maker for Union/A-C Valley (4-1), which faces a stiff test Thursday night at undefeated Keystone (5-0).

“He’s a smart, talented football player,” Dittman said. “I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Rainey, a senior, prefers to downplay his punt return exploits.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool, but I don’t really care that much about individual stats,” Rainey said. “I just care about getting wins.”

Rainey said he isn’t doing anything special when he fields a punt. He’s just letting his natural ability as a shifty open-field runner take over.

“It’s just like being a running back,” Rainey said. “You follow your blocks, hit the hole and just keep going.”

Rainey has been something of a Swiss Army knife for the Falcon Knights this season, lining up pretty much everywhere on the football field.

Tailback. Check. Wide receiver. Check. Slot receiver. Check. Even cornerback on defense.

“Caden has done anything we’ve asked him to do,” Dittman said. “You know, he’s been around for years and is such a selfless player. He wants to do whatever he can to win. The kid can just do it all.”

Rainey has rushed for 144 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown, has caught six passes for 58 yards and a score and also has 17 tackles and an interception on defense in addition to the damage he has done on special teams.

He’s done it all while playing on a sprained ACL, although he insists the knee injury suffered this summer has never been an issue.

“No problems at all,” he said.

When asked what is his favorite thing to do on a football field, Rainey has a succinct answer that sums up his football personality:

“Winning ballgames.”

Rainey figured Union/A-C Valley would win a lot of ballgames this season with a roster chock-full of playmakers, including himself.

But a Week 1 loss at Brockway forced Rainey and the team to do some serious soul-searching.

“Everyone, including us, thought we were going to win that game,” Rainey said. “It was humbling. We just decided that wasn’t going to happen again, that we weren’t going to overlook anybody.”

The Falcon Knights have played like that since that opening-week loss. They’ve put together three consecutive shutout wins and overcame a sluggish start last week against Port Allegany to blow the Gators away in the second half in a 41-8 triumph.

Since Week 1, Union/A-C Valley has outscored its opponents 201-8.

“We’re really excited for this week,” Rainey said. “Keystone has always been a rival of ours. We can’t wait to see what we can do against them.”

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