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Rally in the Valley: Redbank Valley Football Fans Turn Out to Wish Bulldogs Well in Hershey

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Flames from a large bonfire licked at the darkness.

Members of the Redbank Valley football team filed in. They gave high-fives. They soaked in the cheers.

(Photos by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography)

The band played. The cheerleaders cheered.

The Rally in the Valley gathering in the parking lot of the VFW Tuesday night was aimed to send the Bulldogs on to Hershey and the PIAA Class A championship game with the knowledge this tight-knit community was behind them.

“This is what makes the small, public schools so special,” said senior quarterback Bryson Bain. “I mean, what it is out here? Thirty degrees? And all these people are here showing support. The whole community is out here and that means a lot to us going into this game with everyone behind us.”

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

The atmosphere was festive with balloons, students and adults alike decked out in school colors on a frigid evening and even a pep talk from head football coach Blane Gold.

“I just wanted to start this today by thanking you all,” Gold said. “The community support we’ve had since that clock hit zero Friday night when Redbank Valley beat a private school out of the WPIAL has just absolutely been incredible.”

The pep rally brought back memories for Cortney (Snyder) Ortz.

The 1997 graduate of Redbank Valley was a volleyball player back then. But she remembers those pep rallies before big football games.

With a son, Aiden, on the team, Ortz said she couldn’t miss this event.

“This is something we used to do when we were in high school,” Ortz said. “It’s really cool to see it happening again. It was never this big, though. I think that Redbank has always had good school spirit, for all sports really. Redbank Valley loves their football. This season has really been amazing.”

Ortz said when Aiden was younger, playing with many of the same friends who are on the team now, she made comments that when they grew up, they would have a special football team.

Her prediction has come true.

“My son has played football since youth,” Ortz said. “We always said that these boys would be really great when they got to varsity. And here they are.”

Redbank Valley players and coaches will depart for Hershey Wednesday morning. The championship game against District 6 power Bishop Guilfoyle will be played at 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium.

The players and coaches won’t be alone.

Four school buses packed with students will also be on the road to the game Thursday morning.

Senior Ryley Pago said she and her classmates haven’t experienced anything like this moment .

“As a small town, your first instinct isn’t winning a state title. Your first instinct is winning districts,” said Pago, who experienced her own excitement last season as a junior when as a member of the volleyball team she and her teammates snagged a District 9 crown. “Winning districts as a small school is an amazing feeling, and when the football players kept winning and made it to the state final, it was an even more amazing feeling, not only for them, (but) the whole community.”

Pago was amazed by the turnout at the pep rally.

“Right now the whole community has been showing so much support for them,” Pago said. “Something I’ve never seen before and it makes me happy to see all the support they’ve been getting. As a student, this is something I’m never going to forget.”

It has junior Caylen Rearick hoping to recreate that magic during basketball season.

Draped with a blanket to stay warmed following basketball practice, Rearick watched the festivities, also in awe.

“It definitely motivates us, to see that people in a small town can definitely do great things,” Rearick said. “What the boys are experiencing, we want to experience that. There’s just so much support in the school and the community and everyone around. I know for the boys it’s a great feeling.”

It hasn’t just been those living in New Bethlehem who have expressed good luck.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler running back Rocky Bleier posted a video on social media wishing the Bulldogs good fortune. Rudy Ruettiger of Notre Dame fame also posted a clip wishing Redbank Valley the best.

“It’s been such an incredible experience,” Gold said. “It’s been a whirlwind. I do my best to get back to every single person who reaches out for support or to offer funds along those lines. They just keep coming as fast as I keep sending them out.

“It’s a perfect example of what small school high school football is all about,” Gold added. “It’s about community. It’s about Friday night lights. It’s about the energy that the community brings. It’s about the fact that on Thursday our entire community is going to shut down for basically half a day.”

Ortz said she knows a lot of people who are going. She also said she knows a lot of people who are staying behind, but are going to listen to the and broadcast from home.

“Even people who cannot get off work are asking how they can listen to it,” Ortz said. “They’re going to wear their earbuds at work. My brother, who works as a sawmill, will have his earbuds in listening.”

Gold didn’t have to ask the question, but he did anyway.

It’s a question he asks his players in the locker room before they come out for a game. He asks it three times and gets the same response, louder each time.

He asked the crowd assembled Tuesday night the same thing.

“Can I count on you!”

They answered resoundingly: “You can count on me!”

“Can I count on you!” the coach asked again.

“You can count on me!” was the answer, louder still.

“Can I count on you!” A third time.

“You can count on me!” was the bellowed reply.

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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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