BROCKWAY, Pa. – Stellar defense and timely offense helped Redbank Valley power past Smethport 20-6 as the Bulldogs claimed their first District 9 Title in over twenty years.
After Smethport began the game with a touchdown, the Bulldogs scored 20 unanswered first-half points, using a mix of powerful running and medium range passing to carve their way through the Hubbers defense. The second half was uneventful, and a fourth quarter stop deep in Redbank Valley territory denied Smethport’s biggest chance at a comeback.
Ray Shreckengost was the power back for the Bulldogs, grinding out 73 yards on 13 carries. Gunner Mangiantini had a fantastic dual threat game, throwing for 77 yards and rushing for 49 yards. Chris Marshall snagged three catches for 34 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs defense did a fantastic job containing Smethport star Noah Lent, who rushed for 45 yards on 19 carries and went 5-15 throwing with a touchdown and an interception.
After stuffing the Bulldogs on the opening drive, Smethport used clever misdirection runs to surge their way down the field. After entering the red zone, Lent hooked up with Brandon Higley for a 10-yard touchdown. A failed two-point conversion attempt put the Hubbers up 6-0 with 5:50 to play in the first quarter.
The two teams then exchanged interceptions. Solid interior pressure from the Hubbers forced Cam Wagner into an interception, as his deep throw was picked off by Logan Christie. The Bulldogs then snagged a pick of their own, as Aiden Ortz stepped in front of an out route, setting the Bulldogs up with great field position inside Hubbers’ territory.
Redbank Valley made the mistake count, as Mangiantini found Chris Marshall over the middle for a 25-yard touchdown pass. A successful PAT put the Bulldogs up 7-6 with 2:23 left in the first quarter.
Smethport appeared to take a lead via a kickoff return touchdown, but the score was called back due to a holding penalty. After the subsequent drive fizzled out, Redbank Valley responded with a well-crafted drive. A series of steamrolling runs by Shreckengost and a gadget pass from Chris Marshall to Marquese Gardlock led the Bulldogs deep into Hubbers’ territory. Mangiantini then found the endzone on a quarterback draw, putting the Bulldogs up 13-6 midway through the second quarter.
The tenacious Bulldogs defense continued their dominance, as Joe Mansfield secured a key sack to force another Smethport punt. Redbank Valley went straight back to the ground game, slashing their way down the field. Facing a fourth-and-goal on the five yard line, Mangiantini hooked up with Chris Marshall on a perfectly run out route to score Redbank Valley’s third touchdown, giving them a 20-6 lead with 2:00 left in the half. Smethport’s final drive petered out, keeping the deficit at 14 at the intermission.
The second half was a hard-fought defensive showdown, with both teams struggling to find offensive rhythm. After both teams exchanged fruitless drives to open the half, Smethport began to take more risks to jumpstart a comeback. On a third and long late in the third quarter, Lent threw up a desperation pass into quadruple coverage. Miraculously, the ball was deflected into the air and fell into the arms of Ryli Burrit for a first down. Unfortunately for the Hubbers, the drive petered out soon after, as the Bulldogs forced another punt.
After a quick Bulldogs three and out ended the third quarter, the Hubbers embarked on a solid drive, reigniting their running game. After converting on a key third down in Bulldogs’ territory, the Hubbers faced a first-and-goal situation, needing a touchdown to get back into the game. Redbank Valley then turned in their best defensive display of the night, stuffing the Hubbers on three consecutive plays before forcing a fourth down incompletion to end the drive.
With over 5:00 left in the fourth quarter, Redbank Valley chained together powerful runs to slowly bleed out the clock. Needing a first down to seal the game, Kobe Bonanno surged forward on a quarterback sneak to gain the decisive yardage, giving the Bulldogs a 20-6 win and their first district title since 1996.
The Bulldogs will advance to the next round of the PIAA playoffs, where they will play the District Five champion at a time and place to be determined.