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Show Stoppers: Redbank Valley’s Defense Comes Up Big, Helps Bulldogs Hand Central Clarion Its First Loss

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — In a game with two high-powered offenses, it was the Redbank Valley defense that came up big in helping the Bulldogs defeat Central Clarion 47-38 on Friday evening.

(Photo by Madison McFarland)

The big play came on the last play of the first half with Central Clarion leading 23-20 and set to get the second half kickoff.

Wildcats’ quarterback Jase Ferguson was intercepted by Brandon Ross, who returned the ball 40 yards for a touchdown giving the Bulldogs a 27-23 lead at halftime.

“Brandon Ross is our best defensive player and he read that perfectly,” said Redbank Valley head coach Blane Gold. “We practice reading screen passes in every practice and that certainly paid off there and was a huge play for us heading into halftime.”

The Bulldogs never trailed after that.

The Redbank defense also picked up two more interceptions in the second half in its own end zone, thwarting two more Central Clarion scoring chances.

After Redbank Valley took the opening kickoff and drove 16 plays from their own 34 to as deep as the Central Clarion 5, the Bulldogs eventually turned the ball over on downs at the 12.

Two plays after the Wildcats took over, Ferguson connected with Ashton Rex on an 85-yard catch and run to give Central Clarion a 7-0 lead.

Redbank Valley answered on a 17-yard pass from Braylon Wagner to Mason Clouse to tie the score 7-7 with 4:30 to play in the first.

Following a Central Clarion punt, the Bulldogs drove 60 yards in just three plays, with a 15-yard penalty also aiding the march. Wagner connected with Aiden Ortz from 24 yards out to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead after one.

On the first play of the second quarter Ferguson and Rex connected again, this time from 35 yards out to tie the game 14-all.

Rex finished the game with nine catches for 209 yards with two touchdowns.

Redbank Valley fumbled a punt and Central Clarion recovered, taking over at the Bulldog 47. The Wildcats drove to the Bulldogs’ 5 before turning the ball over on downs.

Two plays after taking over on downs, Aiden Ortz was tackled by Coleman Slater in the end zone for a safety to give Central Clarion a 16-14 lead.

After the free kick, the Wildcats scored again three plays later on a 51-yard pass from Ferguson to a wide open Dawson Smail, giving Central Clarion a 23-14 lead with 2:01 to play in the first half.

Ferguson finished the game 12-of-21 passing for 274 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions.

Redbank scored quickly with just 50 seconds to play in the half when Wagner connected with Tate Minich on a 17-yard score. The PAT kick sailed wide, leaving the score 23-20.

That set up the momentum-turning play at the end of the first half.

Wagner connected with Rylan Rupp for an 11-yard score to increase the lead to 34-20 after three.

Ferguson scored on a 3-yard plunge on the first play of the fourth quarter with Ryan Hummell adding the 2-point run to close the gap to 34-31.

Redbank had an answer.

Wagner tossed a 54-yard strike to Minich to put the lead back to two scores at 41-31 with 10:32 to play.

Wagner finished 15-of-24 for 267 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

Minich intercepted Ferguson in the end zone on the Wildcats’ next possession. However, the Bulldogs struggled to move the ball and were forced to punt from their own 11. A short 19-yard punt gave Central Clarion the ball at the Bulldogs 30.

The Wildcats took advantage of the good field position and drove down and score on a Ferguson 1-yard dive to cut the lead to 41-38 with 3:17 to play.

Ferguson led the Central Clarion ground game with 82 yards rushing on 24 attempts with two scores. Connor Kopnitsky added 77 yards on 11 carries.

With just one timeout remaining, the Wildcats elected to try and onside kick. The kick bounced perfectly into the arms of Mason Clouse who raced 50 yards untouched for a touchdown and a 47-38 lead.

Ortz then intercepted Ferguson again in the end zone and the Bulldogs were able to run out the clock.

Minich led the Redbank Valley receivers with 126 yards on five catches with a pair of scores. Mason Clouse added four catches for 63 yards while Aiden Ortz added 53 yards on three catches with a score. Rylan Rupp’s only reception was his 11-yard touchdown catch.

Drew Byers rushed 15 times for 45 yards to lead the Bulldogs ground game.

The two quarterbacks combined for 541 passing yards.

“I told our guys two things can happen,” said Central Clarion head coach Dave Eggleton. “In the time we’ll have off before our playoff game we can let it tear us apart or we can find a way to dig deep, and it can motivate us for the playoffs. I know the character of our guys and I’m pretty sure it is going to be the second of those two.”