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STAYING GROUNDED: Brockway Turns to Jendy Cuello, Running Game to Move on to D9 Class A Championship Game with 7-3 Win Over Redbank Valley

DuBOIS, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Jendy Cuello lowered his head and plowed forward.

He zigged. He zagged. He showed vision. He made quick cuts.

He made the difference.

(Pictured above, Brockway running back Jendy Cuello breaks free for some of his 169 yards during the Rovers’ 7-3 win over Redbank Valley on Saturday afternoon/photo by Madison McFarland)

The Brockway junior running back, who moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic when he was 10 and knew very little about football, showed how far he has come in helping the Rovers to a 7-3 win over Redbank Valley in the District 9 Class A semifinals at DuBois’ E.J. Mansell Stadium on a soggy and chilly Saturday afternoon.

Cuello carried the load. He had 41 rushes for 169 yards, including two key first-down carries of 33 and 11 on the game’s final drive to secure the win.

“Greatest line in D9, man,” Cuello said. “I gotta say, I don’t think you’re gonna find a better line that’s gonna get you holes like that. I feel like I mentioned this before, you can put another running back in there and they’ll do just as well. I give myself some credit, but most of the credit goes to them.”

Cuello is being modest. There’s nothing modest about his running style.

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

He’s fast and runs north and south when he has to. He can also avoid tacklers, stiff-arm them, run them over or run around them.

With the back playing so well in the second half of the season — 649 of his 1,120 yards this season came in the last five games — Brockway coach Jake Heigel came into the rematch with Redbank Valley with a clear plan.

Give the ball to Cuello.

A lot.

Cuello, who gained 40 pounds in the offseason through diet and weight training, carried the ball 11 times alone on the Rovers’ opening drive, which was stoped after 14 plays — all runs — at the Bulldog 6.

Still, despite not scoring on the methodical drive, Brockway bled 6:03 off the clock and proved to itself it could run the ball against Redbank Valley.

“The game plan was to ride (Cuello),” Heigel said. “I think that was (Redbank’s) biggest fear coming in that we were going to be able to do it again.”

Brockway did — Cuello had 182 yards in the first meeting, which was a 34-28 loss on Oct. 21.

“I cannot say enough about how physical we play up front and how far Jendy has come from the first part of the year where he kind of let up at the end of the run to just punishing people when he’s getting close to the first down,” Heigel said. “He is just a tough kid who has willed himself into a position where the offensive line enjoys blocking for him. You can see how hyped up they get when he gets a first down. He’s playing fantastic.”

It was a stark contrast to what Brockway usually likes to do on offense.

Sophomore quarterback Brayden Fox came into the game with 2,448 passing yards on 17 completions and 30 attempts per game.

(Mattie Brubaker celebrates his 45-yard TD reception with Reese Yahner/photo by Madison McFarland)

Fox completed only two passes all day.

But one of them was huge.

Fox found Mattie Brubaker on a 45-yard touchdown pass with 9:20 remaining in the second quarter to give the Rovers a 7-0 lead.

Fox was 2 of 9 for 68 yards in the win.

Cuello had 93 yards on 23 carries at the half, but was getting stonewalled early in the third quarter.

“When we started getting stopped, I thought we were gonna pass the ball a little more,” Cuello said. “But it didn’t happen. They told me they’re gonna give me the ball 40 times and we really did.”

Heigel stuck to his guns.

Meanwhile, the Brockway defense was doing its job.

Redbank Valley (9-2) was able to move the ball at times against the Rovers, but wasn’t able to finish off those drives with points until the first play of the fourth quarter when Gold elected to kick a 22-yard field goal with Owen Clouse to cut the lead to 7-3.

The Bulldogs had forced a Cuello fumble at the Brockway 26 and moved to the 5 before stalling.

“We believe that Owen is the best place kicker in the conference and he drilled a field goal to put us in a position to win the game,” Gold said. “Defensively, they just kind of bled us dry there. We did get the ball back and made some plays.”

But Alex Carlson made the biggest one for Brockway.

Redbank Valley drove from its own 20 to the Brockway 35 with time waning in the fourth quarter, the big play a 40-yard pass from freshman Braylon Wagner to sophomore Rylan Rupp.

On second-and-5 from the Brockway 35 Wagner lofted a pass toward Tate Minich, who had two steps on Carlson. But the ball hung up and Carlson was able to recover, swooping in for an interception at the 1.

Redbank Valley never got the ball back.

“When that ball left his hand, it looked good,” Gold said. “He made a play on the football. First and foremost, you have to tip your cap to Brockway for the way they played.”

Carlson came into the game with 85 receptions this season. He had zero on Saturday.

No matter. He ended up making the biggest catch of the game anyway.

“I think Carlson saved his speed the whole game just for that play,” joked Heigel. “He wasn’t moving very fast today. All of a sudden, he turned it on.”

Brockway (8-4) held the high-powered Redbank offense to 111 yards passing and 78 on the ground.

“Nobody talks about our defense enough,” Heigel said. “We just make plays when we need to. I’m really proud of them.”

Wagner finished 11 of 22 for 111 yards and two interceptions and Drew Byers rushed for 49 yards on 21 attempts for the Bulldogs.

Brockway will take on Port Allegany (10-1) for the D9 Class A title next week at a site and time to be determined.

“Port Allegany is a fantastic football team,” Heigel said. “They have some fantastic players up front and they have a really good quarterback (Drew Evens) and a really good fullback/linebacker (Blaine Moses). We’re going to enjoy this today because it’s a big program win for us, then we’ll get to work.”

For Redbank Valley, the string of three straight district title appearances — and two straight championships — is over.

“This senior class, we came into together when they were freshmen my first year,” Gold said. “When you look back, everyone credits last year’s senior class — last year’s senior class was incredibly phenomenal athletically — but this senior class was always like the underlying foundation. Whether it was Tate Minich or Carsen Rupp playing as freshmen at times, whether it was Aiden Ortz, they’ve always been major contributors on this football team.

“Obviously I wanted them to go out better,” Gold added, “but I was proud of their effort.”

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