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TURKEY AND FOOTBALL: Redbank Valley Achieves Goal of Practicing on Thanksgiving Morning as They Prepare to Face D10 Champ Cambridge Springs

MEADVILLE, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Long before the cold wind stripped the trees of their leaves, the Redbank Valley football team had a goal.

To practice on Thanksgiving morning.

Even as the sun baked them during the summer, the dream was to spend the holiday on the football field before scattering to their homes for a feast.

The Bulldogs got their wish.

(Pictured above, Redbank Valley’s Rylan Rupp, No. 11, celebrates after a turnover gave the Bulldogs the ball in a 26-7 win over Port Allegany in the District 9 Class A championship game/photo by Ripple Photography)

No Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade viewing for this group. It’s be a different kind of parade for the Bulldogs.

A football walkthrough.

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

On Thursday morning, they will convene at the high school for a final practice before taking on District 10 champion Cambridge Springs in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals at Bender Field in Meadville on Friday night.

“It’s something that is always dangled in front of you and something you’re always working toward,” said Redbank Valley coach Blane Gold. “We talked (Tuesday) to the kids about how special it is to have the opportunity to have a Thanksgiving morning walkthrough and have a little practice together. There’s not many teams across the state right now that even still have their helmets and shoulder pads.

“It was a major goal of ours to get to Thanksgiving. We said, basically, if we do that we know we won the district title and then we’ll see what happens from there.”

Redbank will have another intriguing challenge on its hands against the D10 champs.

The Blue Devils (12-1) beat Lakeview, 32-29, to win the district crown. The 29 points were the most they have surrendered in a game all season.

Cambridge Springs has a formidable defense with 47 quarterback sacks on the season, with senior Tristen Mazzadra leading the way with 13.

Senior Josh Gorton had 150 tackles.

The Devils’ offensive and defensive lines are big. Gold compares them to Port Allegany.

“They have size and speed and they are very talented,” Gold said. “It’s not surprising after seeing them on tape that they are coming out of District 10.”

Cambridge Springs also has a dangerous, run-heavy offense.

Sophomore Brett Kania leads the way with 1,284 yards on 161 carries and the Devils have rushed for 3,343 yards this season as a team.

Junior quarterback Morgan Applebee has only attempted 82 passes in 13 games, completing 46 for 863 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“I think the biggest challenge is probably going to be that they are kind of a mesh between Port Allegany’s front and the really good athletes that Brockway has on the back end,” Gold said. “That’s essentially the best way I can describe them.”

Again, the key for the Bulldogs is going to be their ability to get a one- or two-score lead.

That’s been the recipe of success for Redbank against teams like Cambridge Springs that likes to run the football.

But Gold is also aware of Applebee’s ability to hit big pass plays when needed.

Applebee averages nearly 20 yards a completion.

“If you look at their percentages, they are heavy run, but at the same time, the quarterback makes just enough throws to keep you honest,” Gold said.

Redbank is hoping to get its starting QB back.

Braylon Wagner has been nursing an injury since the Central Clarion loss in the regular season finale. It appeared he was set to start last week in the 26-7 win over Port Allegany, but had a setback on Wednesday.

Gold and his staff went with another sophomore, Jaxon Huffman. It worked out. Huffman three for 344 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He hooked up with Ashton Kahle eight times for 247 yards and two touchdowns.

But Wagner is the unquestioned starter and it again looks like he’s on track to make his return.

“He went back to the doctor this week and got a good report,” Gold said. “We’ll see how he looks on our offensive day (Wednesday).”

The Bulldogs may need all hands on deck against Cambridge Springs.

“We’ve played some really good football teams this year with Puxsutawney and Central Clarion, but as far as single-A team are concerned, they’re probably the most complete football team we have seen,” Gold said.

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