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Preseason Football Preview: Experience is Key for Redbank Valley

High school football preview: Redbank Valley Bulldogs

(Photo: left to right, Ray Shreckengost and Joseph Mansfield)

Redbank Valley Bulldogs

Head Coach: Blane Gold (2nd Season)

Last Season: 9-3, Tied for First in D9 Small School Division

Key Returners: Joseph Mansfield (All-State selection at DE, 11 sacks), Gunnar Mangiantini (754 passing yards in eight games) and Ray Shreckengost (768 rushing yards, 10 TDs)

Quick Hit

The Redbank Valley Bulldogs return most of their top contributors on both sides of the ball and look ready to challenge for another D9 title. Although Redback Valley graduated star defensive end Ethan Hetrick, all-state defensive end Joseph Mansfield returns as the cornerstone of a defense chock full of veterans. The Bulldogs also return both running backs and their starting quarterback, experience that should help Redbank Valley make another run at the D9 Class A title.

What to Watch For

Despite the turbulent early football schedule, head coach Blane Gold has his Redbank Valley Bulldogs ready to hit the ground running in 2020. Gold has been encouraged by his team’s willingness to practice during the pandemic delayed preseason: “When the [two week practice delay] happened, I actually asked the seniors: ‘What do you want to do,’ and they said [they] want to keep going [to practice] every day.” The team’s persistence has allowed them to be organized and able to master most of their offensive and defensive schemes prior to the season, leaving them prepared to face any opponent.

Gold is excited to return most of his playmakers on offense and stresses his team’s depth at running back: “Not only do we have Ray Shreckengost and Kobe Bonanno both back, but we also have Hudson Martz back, [who rushed] for [around] 400 yards last year, along with sophomore Tate Minich. We really have four guys that we feel like we can hand it off to at any given time.” Shreckengost and Bonanno were the impact runners last season, with Shreckengost functioning as the feature back, while Bonanno did his best work in short yardage situations. Since Redbank’s running backs also play key roles on defense, Gold prioritizes rotating their rushing opportunities: “[Our running backs] play very important roles on defense, so we don’t want them coming off the field on defense. But offensively, by rotating them, that’s where we’re able to get them some rest.”

Quarterback Gunnar Mangiantini is set to be the starter for the Bulldogs after a strong sophomore campaign that unfortunately ended in injury. The Bulldogs will have to find new targets for their gunslinger, as leading receivers Ethan and Sam Hetrick, who are cousins, graduated after 400+ yard seasons. Gold has tapped Dalton Bish and Joseph Mansfield as potential replacements, while also mentioning a pair of basketball players who are also ready to contribute: “We also [have] a couple basketball guys that are returning to football in Chris Marshall and Marquis Cardlock, who is a transfer from Sharon. Both of those guys are 6’3”, and they can run and jump.” Redbank’s height at the receiver position should provide Mangiantini with safe downfield targets, a welcome addition to any offense.

The Redbank Valley offensive line returns four big contributors: Coltin Bartley, Aidan Gardner, Kolby Barrett, and Carsen Rupp. “It’s not just their play, but their intelligence,” said Gold, highlighting their strong football instincts: “They’re used to playing next to each other, and it’s such an advantage to have all those guys on the line.” The veteran offensive line will play a big part for the Bulldogs, who love to run with power.

On defense, Joseph Mansfield was an all-state selection in 2019 at defensive end, notching 11 sacks and leading the team in tackles. His strong chemistry with graduated D-end Ethan Hetrick will be hard to emulate, but Gold is confident that his experienced defense has the skill and depth to succeed. Two notable positional moves should possess the potential to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Ray Shreckengost is set to move from defensive tackle to defensive end and will provide a strong pass-rushing threat opposite of Mansfield. Meanwhile, Kobe Bonanno is set to move to nose tackle, a position where he can use his strength and athleticism to stuff the running game. Redbank Valley had 37 sacks last season, and we can expect more of the same from a defense that is tremendously athletic and possesses the experience and skill to consistently pressure their opponents.

Gold is looking forward to potential showdowns with Union/AC Valley and Keystone, two rivals who have elevated the level of their play in recent seasons. Speaking about Union/AC Valley, Gold enjoys the recent revitalization of their rivalry: “Union came here last year on senior night and knocked us off, and I think that kind of revitalized some of the rivalry between the Redbank Valley and Union, because in my eight years being here, that was the first time [we’ve] lost to Union. I think that motivates our guys more to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Charged and passionate rivalries elevate the excitement under the Friday night lights, and the Bulldogs are eager and ready to take down their neighboring schools.

Redbank Valley possesses strong experience on both sides of the ball and have the necessary playmakers to deliver in prime time. Some positional juggling sees familiar faces contributing in new ways, with the hope of keeping the Redbank Valley sack machine running as efficient as always. The Bulldogs’ battles with Union/AC Valley and Keystone should be games to watch, as Redbank strives to win another D9 Small School title.