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Redbank Valley, Union/A-C Valley Set to Clash Again with District 9 Class A Title on the Line This Time

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — When things have gone wrong for the Union/A-C Valley football team this season, they have really gone wrong.

(This game will be live streamed on exploreClarion.com and D9Sports.com. Pre-game starts at 6:30 p.m.)

The Falcon Knights (9-2) have lost two games in 2021. In those two losses, they turned the ball over a staggering 15 times and were called for 23 penalties — most of them costly.

“That’s just crazy,” said Union/A-C Valley coach Brad Dittman. “That’s unheard of.”

One of those losses was to Redbank Valley (10-1) on a raw, rainy night Oct. 22. The Falcon Knights had eight turnovers in that game as the Bulldogs scored two defensive touchdowns on the way to a 28-6 win.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

It could have been 50-6, Dittman said.

But his defense was stout, as it has been all season. He’s hoping for the same — minus the eight turnovers from his offense — as the Falcon Knights take on Redbank Valley at 7 p.m. Friday in the District 9 Class A championship game at Clarion University.

“Well, I guess if there’s one thing you can talk about that’s a positive from the last game was we made all those mistakes and still only gave up 28 points,” Dittman said. “That was a testament to how hard our kids play.”

Dittman and his staff made it a point after that loss to clean up their act. They focused on limiting the penalties that dogged them. Some were pre-snap infractions, but the killer ones were the holding calls that negated big gains and sometimes touchdowns.

They also got to work on being careful with the football.

So far it has worked. In the three games since — including the first two playoff wins since the A-C Valley and Union football programs merged in 2016 — the Falcon Knights have committed just four turnovers and have drastically cut down on their penalties.

It’s hard to imagine another eight-turnover game this time around against Redbank Valley.

“We sure hope not,” Dittman said. “We’ve been preaching that for a while now. We’ve been preaching ball security and taking care of it. This is gonna be a tough football game; this is the third year in a row that Redbank’s been in the District 9 championship game. They have the experience. We don’t. We just need to lay it all on the line and see what happens.”

Redbank Valley lost two years ago in the Class A championship game, 42-13 to Coudersport, before beating Smethport, 20-6, for the title last season.

The Bulldogs have won 10 straight games after having their own mistake-filled loss to Keystone in the season-opener.

They had a scare, though, last week. Redbank Valley overcame a 14-0 deficit at home against Port Allegany to win, 35-14.

The running game saw a resurgence in that playoff win. Ray Schreckengost carried 29 times for 200 yards against the Gators. If Redbank can pair a power running game with its efficient — and sometimes big-play — passing game, it will put any defense in a tough spot.

Even by an elite defense like Union/A-C Valley.

“We made a coaching change with our offensive line after the Punxsutawney game (in the regular-season finale),” said Redbank Valley coach Blane Gold. “We as a coaching staff kind of took a look in the mirror and checked our egos at the door and said, for whatever reason, we just weren’t getting the performance that we needed.

“Ray has a punishing style of running,” Gold added. “He doesn’t necessarily have breakaway speed, but you could see Friday night that after 20 carries there were guys who didn’t want any part of tackling him. What we had been struggling with was getting him to the second level. If we can get him to the second level, he can do some special things.”

Bryson Bain has been doing special things at quarterback all year for Redbank Valley.


(Photo by Madison McFarland)

His first year in football pads as a senior, Bain has 1,628 yards passing and 27 touchdowns.

“I think he’s the best quarterback we’ve faced all year,” Dittman said of Bain. “You know, he’s co-offensive MVP for a reason. For him to come out this year, playing his first year as a senior as well as he has — man, that’s as impressive as it gets. He can throw anywhere on the field. If you give him time, he can just pick you apart.”

So, Dittman’s plan is to not give him time.

There will be no sitting back in coverage Friday night.

“Well, it’s a big game for sure, and what’s the sense of sitting back? We might as well be aggressive,” Dittman said. “We’re gonna try to make plays. We’re gonna let our cover guys cover and hopefully they can make some plays as well. I mean, what do we have to lose? We need to just get after it.”

Redbank Valley’s defense can also get after it.

Last week, the Bulldogs held Port Allegheny’s talented rushing attack to minus-14 yards on 23 carries.

“We know Union is going to try to run the football,” Gold said. “That’s been their staple forever, so we have to match that performance we had last week against what we felt were two very good running backs.”

Union/A-C Valley has a bevy of good backs.

Mikey Card leads the way with 926 yards and just 119 carries. Sophomore Dawson Camper, at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, has rushed for 624 yards and 12 TDs. Senior Caden Rainey hasn’t gotten a lot of carries, but he’s added 195 yards on the ground.

“We know what they’re capable of doing,” Gold said. “We always try to take away what the opponent tries to do best and there’s no doubt this week that that’s running the football.”

There’s a lot of history between Redbank Valley and the Union part of the Union/A-C Valley co-op.

This is actually the third time Redbank and Union have met in a championship game. In 1984, they met for the Little 12 title and Union won. The next year they clashed again with Redbank winning.

That second championship meeting was legendary Union coach Rich Vidunas’ last game.

Union’s stadium is named after Vidunas.

Dittman and Gold are both hoping to make their own history this week.

“Any time you play Redbank, you better make sure all your chin straps are buckled up tight and your mouthpieces are in,” Dittman said. “We know it’s gonna be a grind. We know it’s gonna be a battle. They have a great program, but we think we can play with anybody.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.



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