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Redbank Valley’s Trip to State Title Game More Than Just for the School, But Also for the District

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (EYT/D9) — A long time.

Twenty-nine years, to be exact. The players on the Redbank Valley football team weren’t even glints in their parents’ eyes then.

(Photos by Madison McFarland)

Twenty-nine years. Bulldogs’ head coach Blane Gold was 3.

Twenty-nine years. Gas was $1.05 a gallon, Pearl Jam and Nirvana dominated the music scene and the Buffalo Bills were on their way to the Super Bowl … again.

Twenty-nine years. A long time. Almost three decades between state championship berths for District 9 football teams.

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

But that’s where Redbank Valley will be Thursday — playing for a PIAA Class A title. Getting there and the significance of that feat isn’t lost on the players, the coaches or the district at large.

“This is showing District 9 can compete at the state level,” Gold said. “This is showing District 9 can play. Listen, I whole-heartedly believe Union/A-C Valley could have been competitive against these last two teams. Union/A-C Valley is a tremendous football team.”

All the way back in 1992, Smethport marched to the state championship game from District 9. The Hubbers lost to Scotland, 24-7, in Class A.

No District 9 football team has made it back since.

Until now.

“It still hasn’t hit fully that we’re heading to Hershey to play in the state championship,” said senior Boo Shreckengost.

Smethport made it to the semifinals in 1995 and 1998; Curwensville in 2004 and 2005; Kane in 2007.

Redbank Valley paved the way to this state title game, where they will play Bishop Guilfoyle Thursday afternoon, with a tenacious defense, one that gets after the quarterback and forces mistakes.

The Bulldogs did that Friday night at North Hills’ Martorelli Stadium against WPIAL champ Bishop Canevin, forcing five turnovers.

Gold is a defensive coach. He prides himself on that side of the ball and that unit has been tough for any team to crack this season.

“Our No. 1 goal on defense is to give up 17 points or less,” Gold said. “We feel like if we can give up 17 points or less, we’re going to win the football game. The second thing we do is, no matter what happens, we get back to the line of scrimmage and run another play.”

Bishop Canevin converted a third-and-12 down to the Redbank Valley 11 in the third quarter when the Bulldogs made the Crusaders run one more play.

That play was a pass over the middle that Chris Marshall swooped in to intercept on a dead run at the 3 and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown that swung the game.

Canevin was poised to go up 21-7. Instead Marshall’s pick-6 made it 14-14 on the way to the 23-14 triumph.

“Chris’ touchdown is a perfect example of that,” Gold said. “They kept playing and it completely changed the game. Great defenses don’t give up points and a great defense can keep making the offense snap the football.”

The road to Hershey has also been paved with redemption for Redbank Valley.

The Bulldogs suffered a disheartening loss in the opener to rival Keystone.

But Redbank kept plugging away and has won 13 straight since.

“We called it a blessing in disguise,” Shreckengost said. “After that loss, we just kind of said we weren’t going to lose games like that anymore.”

They didn’t.

“After that loss, we were down for a little bit, a couple of days,” Marshall said. “But we used it as motivation every single day in practice. It just helped us win every single game.”

And now Redbank Valley will carry not only the banner of their school to Hershey, but the banner of the entire district as well.

A district that has been maligned at times in the past.

But perhaps no longer.

“We came out and put on a show for our fans and our community,” Marshall said. “That’s what we intend to do when we go to Hershey.”

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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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