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Numbers Game: Both Union/A-C Valley and Keystone Hope to Nullify Foe’s Biggest Threats

RIMERSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Brad Dittman is having nightmares about twos.

No. 2 and No. 22 to be exact.

(Skyler Roxbury makes a leaping grab for Union/A-C Valley against Cameron County in the season-opener/photo courtesy of Stephanie Crissman.)

When the Union/A-C Valley football coach watched film on Keystone, No. 2 Tyler Albright and No. 22 Kyle Nellis jumped off the screen.

“That’s not to say they don’t have good athletes everywhere else,” Dittman said, “it’s just two and 22 are game-changers.”

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

They certainly were last week for Keystone in a 33-16 win over Coudersport.

Albright had one of the best all-around games in the state with 115 yards and a touchdown on just six carries, two receptions for 34 yards and another score and three interceptions on defense.

Nellis also rushed for 142 yards and three touchdowns for the Panthers.

“It doesn’t matter what it is,” Dittman said. “Special teams. On defense. On offense. There’s no secret when you watch their film. You have to know where No. 2 is and also No. 22 at all times.”

Dittman is hoping to get some of his own numbers rolling this week when his team host Keystone at 7 p.m. Friday at Union High School.

The opener was an offensive slog for Union/A-C Valley after a quick start and good field position gave the Falcon Knights an early 14-0 lead on Cameron County on the way to the 27-14 win.

But Union/A-C Valley had just one first down in the second half and the offensive line struggled to move people and create holes, which was concerning.

When Dittman broke down the film, however, he saw some things that could be corrected and the team went to work to fix some of those mistakes.

“We didn’t do as well up front last week as we would have liked to,” Dittman said. “There were a bunch of assignment mistakes there. We’ve worked hard on cleaning that up this week. But looking at (Keystone) on film, they’re big. No. 55 (Cole Henry) is a big, strong kid. He takes up blocks and does a lot of things for them. The other guys across the line as well. They’re very talented and big up front, so we definitely have our hands full, that’s for sure.”

Keystone had to overcome some adversity last week, building a 20-0 lead before Coudersport rallied to cut that advantage to 20-16.

Nellis’ two second-half touchdown runs put the game out of reach.

Henry actually started the game at tight end before moving back to his normal position at center. That was because starting tight end Aidan Sell broke his hand in the scrimmage and didn’t get much practice time on offense before the opener.

Sell, though, finished the game at tight end while playing with a cast.

It’s not ideal, but it will have to do for the Panthers for now.

Keystone also had key players struggle with muscle cramping. That was prevalent throughout other teams in the district as well on a steamy opening night.

“The kids were able to bounce back from it and really finish the game strong,” said Keystone coach Todd Smith. “I was really proud of them for that.”

Smith was also proud of the play of first-year starting quarterback Rayce Weaver.

The junior didn’t have eye-popping stats — he completed 4 of 8 for 80 yards and a touchdown — but he picked up a key first down with his legs and was a steadying influence in Keystone’s new offense that features multiple formations and no huddles.

“He made some big plays for us,” Smith said. “Rayce is a hard worker and he’s gonna continue to get better as the year goes on.”

Smith also had some numbers to circle on his Union/A-C Valley roster when he was watching film.

“They have some good athletes — (Dawson) Camper, (Ryan) Cooper, (Skyler) Roxbury,” Smith said. “(Landon) Chalmers does a really nice job up front. They have some good players there, too. I’m pretty impressed with their team. We’re gonna have to come ready to play.”

Whether Camper is ready to play or not may come down to game time.

The junior had his right leg rolled up on during Union/A-C Valley’s second offensive possession. He finished the half, but came out of the locker room at the start of the third quarter limping and in street clothes.

Dittman said the injury isn’t serious.

Good thing. Last year he was a big part of the Falcon Knights’ success and was counted on to be a key cog on both sides of the ball again this season.

“He’s been a work in progress this week,” Dittman said. “He seems to be getting better and better every day, so we’ll have to see where he’s at.”
The series between the two schools has been interesting the past few years.

Last season, the Panthers and Falcon Knights clashed on a Thursday night with Keystone jumping out to an early 12-0 lead thanks to a defensive and special teams score by Nellis.

Union/A-C Valley rallied, though, for a 26-24 win.

Keystone is 2-4 against Union/A-C Valley since the co-op began in 2016. The Falcon Knights have won the last two meetings, including another close game in 2020 by the score of 14-7.

“From what the other coaches have said, there have been some hard-fought games, both ways,” said Smith, who is in his first year at Keystone. “They’re going to be a real challenge.”

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