A pair of state playoff games are the focus of Week Nine, as D9 champions Redbank Valley and Karns City both travel in the hopes of keeping their state title aspirations alive.
(Photo by Jared Bakaysa)
Redbank Valley vs. Northern Bedford
The Redbank Valley Bulldogs used a balanced offensive attack and tenacious run defense to win the D9 Class A title over Smethport. The Bulldogs will face a different beast this week, as they face off with Northern Bedford, a team with a high-powered and balanced offense.
Redbank Valley’s defense has been the story of the season for the Bulldogs, who have not given up more than 12 points in a game this season. They have shut down opposing rushers, and have also forced key turnovers against the passing game. Kobe Bonanno has done an exceptional job clogging the trenches, while Aiden Ortz has two of Redbank Valley’s five interceptions. Offensively, the Bulldogs are skilled at using their versatility to keep opposing defenses guessing. In their first-round matchup against Coudersport, Redbank Valley used the skilled passing of Cam Wagner to secure points, while they used the power running game alongside some gadget plays to success against Smethport. What new wrinkle will the Bulldogs employ this week?
The 7-1 Northern Bedford Panthers have an accomplished offense, tallying 390 yards of total offense per game while scoring over 30 points in seven of their eight games. After losing their opening game to Bellwood-Antis, Northern Bedford won seven lopsided games in a row, utilizing their offense to dominate opponents. Quarterback Thad Leidy throws for 161 yards per game, spreading the ball out to a solid crop of receivers, five of which have over 100 receiving yards. The Panthers have a dual-threat of rushers in Dalton Smith and Cadin Ebersole, who each average over eight yards a carry. Defensively, the Panthers have 11 sacks and 16 takeaways. Dakota Claar leads Northern Bedford with 4 sacks.
One Thing to Watch: Redbank Valley has yet to face a passing offense as good as that of Northern Bedford. Considering how good the Bulldogs are at defending the run, we can expect the Panthers to emphasize their passing game. Are the Bulldogs up to the task, or will Northern Bedford be able to find success through the air?
Karns City vs. Wilmington
The 6-2 Karns City Gremlins struggled to find a team identity early in the season, but after doubling down on their power rushing attack, the Gremlins have experienced more success. To win the D9 title, Karns City avenged both of their regular-season losses, using their powerful front to physically dominate opponents. The powerful running of Luke Garing and Cole Coon has been invaluable in playoff time, while Kaden Scherer has added a speedy second option on the ground. Defensively, Karns City uses their strength up front to rush the passer and stuff the run, both of which they executed brilliantly against Brookville in the title game. Karns City will need to continue to play to their strengths against Wilmington, who will likely pose the stiffest test for the Gremlins this season.
The Wilmington Greyhounds are 7-0, defeating perennial contender Farrell three times in their seven games. Interestingly, Wilmington has only played three different opponents all season, defeating both Greenville and Sharpsville twice, winning each game in lopsided fashion. Wilmington did a solid job of stopping Farrell’s rushing attack, holding their offense to under 20 points in each of their three matchups. Offensively, Wilmington scored 40+ points in all but two of their games; however, both of the low-scoring games came in their most recent matchups with Farrell. Can the Greyhounds get the job done against higher-level competition?
One Thing to Watch: Karns City loves to run the ball, but Wilmington has displayed the ability to stop the run. Considering the Gremlins’ limited success through the air this season, will Karns City continue to force the run if they face a stiff early resistance?