NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. – A strong running game and two clutch plays down the stretch were enough to boost the Redbank Valley Bulldogs past the visiting Brockway Rovers via a 21-7 score line.
A defensive struggle kept the upset-minded Rovers in the game, and they trailed only 13-7 at the half. Early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs ended a long Brockway drive by forcing the Rovers into a turnover on downs. Redbank Valley running back Hudson Martz promptly smashed his way down the field with his physical running, draining the clock and putting the Bulldogs in position to score. Quarterback Gunner Mangiantini connected with wideout Marquese Gardlock on a fade route to ice the game for the Bulldogs. The play of the game was made on Brockway’s final possession, as Redbank defensive back Christopher Marshall snagged an extraordinary one-handed interception, ending Brockway’s slim hope of a comeback.
The game started slowly for both offenses, as the first four possessions resulted in no points and two turnovers. Redbank Valley recovered a fumble off of a snap on Brockway’s first possession, while Ben Glasl picked off a Mangiantini pass on the Bulldogs’ second possession. Brockway’s strong defensive start can be attributed to some wily coaching, as the Rovers surprised Redbank Valley by running a five-man front on defense, clogging up the Bulldogs’ powerful rushing attack.
Late in the first quarter, a mishandled snap on a punt by Redbank Valley gave Brockway good field position. Unfortunately for Brockway, their offense failed to take advantage of the opportunity, as the Bulldogs forced a quick three-and-out and Rovers punt. After trading two more punts, the Bulldogs launched a seven play 50-yard drive concluding with a powerful rushing touchdown by Ray Shreckengost. A converted extra point gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with just under eight minutes left in the first half.
The Bulldogs forced yet another three-and-out and countered quickly, entering the red zone after a long circus-catch reception by Gardlock. Martz punched the ball into the end zone, giving the Bulldogs a 13-0 lead late in the second quarter. Brockway had failed to get a first down until their final drive of the second quarter as Redbank Valley dominated the line of scrimmage. In their final drive of the first half, the Rovers transitioned to an aerial attack and achieved instant results, connecting on multiple long passes. With one second left in the half, quarterback Conner Ford connected with Ben Glasl for a 17-yard touchdown, cutting the Redbank lead to six at the half.
The offensive gridlock continued into the second half, as neither team could get anything going offensively. Brockway continued to contain the Redbank rushers, while Redbank negated Brockway’s efforts in the air. Early in the fourth quarter, Brockway began to find some success on offense, connecting on a few passes to enter Redbank territory. Despite the Rovers’ success, the Bulldogs stood firm, forcing a turnover on downs after forcing two key incompletions.
The Bulldogs rode the momentum of their stop into a stellar offensive possession, as Hudson Martz’s angry and aggressive running cut through the Rovers’ defense, taking up valuable time while advancing the football. After the rushing attack put the Bulldogs in scoring range, Mangiantini connected with Gardlock for a 22-yard touchdown on a perfectly executed fade route. The score gave the Bulldogs some breathing room, as they went up 21-7 with just over a minute left to play.
The Rovers attempted a comeback, connecting on a series of long passes to drive into Bulldogs’ territory. Their efforts were stopped courtesy of a spectacular leaping one-handed interception by Christopher Marshall, a play that combined freak athleticism with tremendous technique and composure. The interception was the final meaningful play of the game, as the Bulldogs kneeled out the clock for a 21-7 victory.
Martz led the Bulldogs on the ground, rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown. Shreckengost also rushed for 56 yards and a score. Mangiantini threw for 100 yards and a touchdown, and Gardlock had three key catches for 64 yards, while also snagging the important fourth quarter touchdown.
Brockway was led by quarterback Ford, who threw for 115 yards and a touchdown. Tanner Morelli had 43 receiving yards, while Glasl had a touchdown to go with his 40 yards.
Redbank Valley climbs to 2-0 with the win, while Brockway falls to 0-2. Next week, Redbank Valley has a bye week due to Sheffield’s canceling of their season. The Bulldogs are set to play at home against Union/A-C Valley on October 3rd. Brockway will play at home against Keystone next Friday.