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PREVIEW: Union/A-C Valley’s Goal is Clear – Take That Final Step and Win D9 Class A Championship

RIMERSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The Union/A-C Valley football team was close.

Oh so close.

(Above, Mikey Card moved from offensive line to running back last season and led Union/A-C Valley with 898 yards rushing/photo by Shelly Atzeni)

The Falcon Knights erased a 21-point deficit against Redbank Valley in the District 9 Class A championship game last November. It was something of their calling card in 2021 — the resiliency to rally from almost any amount of adversity.

But the ride ended in a 28-21 loss.

Still, Union/A-C Valley had its most successful season since the co-op between the two schools began in 2016. The Falcon Knights went 9-3, had a streak of three consecutive games without giving up a point and outscored their foes 390-136.

They expect even better this season — but also realize it won’t just be handed to 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.

“We have to work really hard to take that next step,” said Union/A-C Valley coach Brad Dittman. “We’re not going to get there by just saying we’re going to take that next step. There’s a lot of work that has to happen. We have a bunch of players with experience back, but we have to work on the details.”

In all three losses, penalties and turnovers dogged Union/A-C Valley.

The main goal in camp was simple: clean up those miscues.

“Some things that cost us in those games last year, the ball security, the special teams, the penalties, we really need to focus on those things to take the next step,” Dittman said. “If you’re gonna compete for championships, you can’t make some of the mistakes we made.”

The good thing for the Falcon Knights is they have a bulk of their top players returning, including a two-headed monster in the backfield.

Senior Mikey Card moved from offensive line to running back last season and was a force in his new role.

He slimmed down and showed off power and quickness in rushing for 898 yards on just 112 carries and seven touchdowns.

Junior Dawson Camper was also a star for Union/A-C Valley, gaining 631 yards on the ground on 87 attempts. He had a nose for the end zone, scoring 13 TDs.

“What Mikey and Dawson did for us last year — they did a ton,” Dittman said. “The think what I liked the most about them is they never complained. You know, if we would have handed him the ball all the time, Mikey would have had 2,000 yards. But we split it up. We had an eye on (Card) for a couple of years — we knew we were going to make that switch. He didn’t disappoint.”

Union also has quarterbacks Bailey Crissman and Brody Dittman back.

At the end of last season, the two split time. Crissman, who is now 6-foot-7, threw for 902 yards and 13 touchdowns and Dittman added 348 passing yards and five more TDs.

Crissman battled a hip injury down the stretch, but is healthy now.

Coach Dittman isn’t sure if the two will share time again.

“We preach every year competing, and we have a bunch of kids who can compete this year,” the coach said. “No starting job is guaranteed, and we expect younger guys to push these older guys.”

One player who will be an anchor on both sides of the ball is Landon Chalmers.

The senior was the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference lineman of the year. As good as he was at keeping players out of the backfield as a guard on offense, he may have been even better at getting into the backfield as a tackle on defense.

Chalmers racked up 56 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and six sacks last season.

“He had a pretty solid season,” Dittman said. “We’re looking for him to lead those groups on the O and D lines. We need his leadership and we need him to help those younger guys step up and teach them what they need to do.”

Union/A-C Valley also has two of its top three receivers back in seniors Skyler Roxbury and Ryan Cooper.

Roxbury caught 23 passes for 471 yards and five touchdowns and Cooper had 22 receptions for 393 yards and seven scores.

The offense should again be diverse, however, with the ball spread out to several playmakers.

“It’s great and it’s just nice to know that you don’t have to always be the best player that night because there’s five other people who are going to be just as good as what you hope to be,” Roxbury said.

Roxbury was just as good on defense with eight interceptions. In all, Union/A-C Valley picked off 23 passes last year.

Everyone by Caiden Rainey, who had one INT, is back.

They all have one goal: win the District 9 Class A championship.

Union/A-C Valley is well aware of what team they have to conquer to do it.

“The past couple of years — and I think it continues this year — we’re chasing Redbank Valley,” Dittman said. “We’re trying to get where they are.”

Another thing Union/A-C Valley has going for it is numbers.

The Falcon Knights finally have enough players to form a junior high team, which now allows Dittman to bring up his freshmen class.

That means instead of barely cracking 20 players, Union/A-C Valley will have 38 rostered this year.

“For us, that’s phenomenal,” Dittman said. “Usually, we suit up 17 or 18 guys on a Friday night. It’s going to be fun to have that number to work with and to run a full JV schedule. This is where we wanted to be. We weren’t there for the past few years, but I think we’re finally getting the program where, hopefully, this is the future and we can do this year in and year out. To be successful and compete for championships, this is what needs to happen every year. We need that JV time.”

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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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