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Ringing in History: Redbank Valley Football Players Receive Rings to Commemorate Memorable 2021 Season

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Joe Mansfield’s eyes lit up and a large smile creased his face as he opened the box and set his sights on the ring for the first time.

Set in the middle was the Redbank Valley High School bulldog logo, surrounded by white and red faux diamonds with the words “BEST OF THE WEST” circling it.

Etchings on one side commemorate the back-to-back District 9 championships and on the other a Hershey Kiss in honor of the trip to the PIAA Class A title game.

The senior, as well as the rest of his teammates on the 2021 Redbank Valley football team, each received a ring, paid for by community and business sponsorships.

A lot of thought went into the decision to get the rings for the players and coaching staff.

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

“It wasn’t anything we took lightly because we didn’t want to give off the participation-trophy vibe,” said Redbank Valley football coach Blane Gold. “It kind of went back to last season. After we won the district last year, some of the seniors had asked about getting rings. I just told them that I felt like that is reserved for something bigger.”

This year’s run was different and changed that thinking.

Redbank Valley again won the District 9 Class A championship and made a historic run to the state title game, beating District 7 (WPIAL) power Bishop Canevin, 23-14, in one of the most memorable games ever in any sport at the school.

(Joe Mansfield embraces Redbank Valley football coach Blane Gold in the waning moments of the Bulldogs’ win in the PIAA Class A semifinal/photo by Madison McFarland)

The Bulldogs fell to Bishop Guilfoyle, 21-14, in the PIAA championship game, but that didn’t diminish what the team had accomplished.

The 13 wins were the most in program history. It was also the first time any Redbank Valley sports team had played for a state title.

It was also the first time a District 9 team had played for a PIAA football crown since 1992.

“This year’s team had some pretty lofty goals set for them and for what they wanted to accomplish,” Gold said. “So I made a deal with them. I said, look, if we get to the Final Four — that’s something that in every sport is very much celebrated — we’ll see how the game goes and we’ll seriously consider getting rings. Obviously, they got there and they went beyond that, so the biggest part for me was keeping my word.”

The most challenging part was paying for them.

Gold got bids from five different companies that design and manufacture championship rings and he went with the best bid, which happened to come from a company that made the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship rings in 2016.

Those rings were a little more expensive.

For Redbank Valley’s purposes, each ring cost roughly $200. For the entire team to receive one, the bill came in at around $10,000.

The community and businesses in and around New Bethlehem came though to pay for each ring.

“We decided to kind of do it quietly, ask people if they may be interested in sponsoring a kid’s ring — that’s how we approached it, sponsoring each kid’s ring,” Gold said. “Myself and the coaches kind of privately started to reach out to some individuals and some businesses to see if this was something they’d be interested it.”

The response was overwhelming.

So was the “ring reveals” that were posted on social media for several days this past week, highlighting certain players and sponsors.

Initially, Gold was concerned about the optics of getting rings for the players after a state championship loss. Then he looked at the totality of what the team had accomplished and realized it was deserving.

The community agreed.

“I guess it was just a validation that it was something that the kids earned and it was something the community supported,” Gold said. “It was something the community wanted for them.

“I’ve really been blown away by the response that we’ve gotten from the videos and how happy people have been with them. We actually had the Moose Lodge in town buy one. They bought a size 18 ring so they can display it and people can come in and see the design.”

The bar, though, has been raised even higher.

If the 2022 team wants rings, they’ll have to take things a step further.

“It won’t happen again unless we win a state championship,” Gold said. “For this group, it was a championship-caliber season. They basically did everything humanly possible during a football season, except scoring the final eight points to win a state championship. We thought that was worth celebrating.”

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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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