NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — When asked if he knew who Steve Tasker was, Ashton Kahle was a bit stumped.
“I’ve heard of him,” Kahle said. “But I really don’t know too much about him.”
Kahle should look up Tasker on YouTube. The Redbank Valley sophomore plays a lot like the former Buffalo Bills’ special teams ace.
In the early 1990s, there was no one better on special teams than Tasker, who had a penchant for making tackles on virtually every kick coverage as a gunner. He was also a dangerous punt and kickoff return man when given the chance.
So good at his job, the NFL created a position in the Pro Bowl just for him. He made seven Pro Bowls in his career and there is a groundswell of support for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Kahle is good at his job, too. So good at his job, in fact, Kahle has made a big impact for the red-hot Bulldogs this season. Kahle has been as dangerous as anyone on the field.
“He’s a huge weapon,” said Redbank Valley coach Blane Gold. “If you watch him on our special teams, he’s on the kickoff team and basically his job is to make a tackle on every kick and that’s pretty much what he’s done.”
He’s good at tackling returners. The other team isn’t so good at tackling him as one, however.
Kahle had another punt return for a touchdown against Bucktail Friday night, this one from 72 yards out. It was his second consecutive game with a punt return score and his fourth this season.
He’s now averaging close to 30 yards per punt return.
“He’s lightning fast,” Gold said. “He’s a weapon, no doubt, when you have a kid that fast.”
Kahle, though, is torn about what is his favorite part about playing special teams.
Returning kicks is cool and all — especially when he’s been doing it. Kahle has been breaking the back of the opponent with punt return touchdowns early in games.
His punt return at Smethport in a showdown of two of the top Class A teams in District 9 last week gave Redbank an early 8-0 lead and momentum. This week at Bucktail, he did it again, returning a punt at the end of the Bucks’ first possession for a score.
“I feel it definitely changes the outcome of the game,” Kahle said. “It changes the mentality that the team has. It’s a big change when you do it on the first drive of the game. It felt amazing. And that gave us a lot of momentum going forward.”
Kahle, though, also loves sprinting down the field, seeking out opposing returners and delivering a wallop.
“I’m not even going to lie to you — returns are good and all, but you know, there’s no better feeling that just going down and cracking someone and setting the tone on the kickoff,” he said.
Kahle also plays safety, but hasn’t played much on offense. Redbank is deep at the skill positions on that side of the ball, but one of the main reasons why Kahle has played offense sparingly so far is because he’s too valuable on special teams.
“Honestly, a lot of times that special teams unit is where you’re trying to get some of your young guys some playing time and other guys a break,” Gold said. “We actually tell Ash that’s his most important role on the team is to fly down the field and make tackles on those plays. And, you know, he does and excellent job at it.”
It’s a job Kahle takes a lot of pride in.
He noticed early on that his speed was a tremendous asset when it came to returning kicks, as well as covering them.
But speed alone wasn’t enough. Kahle said he developed the proper mentality to play special teams.
“I just feel like no one can guard me or touch me (when I’m covering kicks),” Kahle said. “I just look at it as I’m setting my defense up in a good position. We’re getting good field position to start on defense.”
As far as returning kicks, he has the same belief.
Even if he’s not scoring, he’s giving his team good field position.
Kahle said he won’t mind it, either, if teams decide not to kick to him. He sees that as the ultimate sign of respect.
“I mean, I hope they keep kicking it to me,” he said, chuckling. “I’ve taken four punts back, so you’d think they’d think I’m pretty dangerous back there, so I’d assume that they would start to kick away from me. If not, I’ll keep taking them back.”
MANSFIELD’S MILESTONE — Kahle’s teammate, senior defensive end Joe Mansfield, also had a memorable night against Bucktail.
Mansfield, who is a three-time all-state selection in Class A, became the first player in Redbank Valley history to record 30 sacks in a career.
COUDY MAKES EPIC RALLY — It was looking like another disappointing loss for Coudersport Friday night.
The Falcons were staring at a 28-6 deficit midway through the fourth quarter against Otto-Eldred when a string of big plays turned the tide, allowing Coudersport to mount and prodigious rally for a 30-28 win.
Two of the touchdowns during the comeback came via the defense. Xander Brown took an interception back for a touchdown to close the gap to 28-22. Gavin Ayers then returned a fumble for a score and the 2-point conversion gave Coudersport the win.
Coudersport (3-3) will face Redbank Valley Friday night.
SMETHPORT LOCKS UP SMALL SCHOOL NORTH — Noah Lent was at it again, rushing for 157 yards and three touchdowns as the Hubbers bounced back from a loss to the Bulldogs last week with a 28-0 blanking of Cameron County.
The win clinched the division title for Smethport (6-1 overall, 4-0 in the North).
COUDRIET STRIKES AGAIN — A week after throwing for 407 yards against Karns City, St. Marys quarterback Christian Coudriet threw for 335 yards and a touchdown as the Dutch slugged it out with Brookville and emerged with a 19-14 win.
St. Marys led 19-0 at the half and had to hold on against the Raiders.
Charlie Krug threw for 262 yards in the loss.
FOX HAS BIG NIGHT FOR BROCKWAY — Brockway’s Brayden Fox continued the potent quarterback trend Friday night with 376 yards passing and four touchdowns as the Rovers pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 34-7 win over Elk County Catholic.
Three of Fox’s TD passes in came in the final 12 minutes.
Fox was 25 of 41. He tossed two touchdowns to Jalen Kosko and one each to Alex Carlson and Blake Pisarcik, who had eight receptions for 150 yards.
Carlson caught 10 passes for 122 yards.
DuBOIS DOMINATES MONITEAU — Austin Henery and Braxton Adams found the end zone often for DuBois, each scoring three times, as the Beavers rolled past Moniteau, 51-7.
Henery had 119 yards on 10 carries. Adams added 63 yards on just seven attempts.
David Dessicino provided the only touchdown for Moniteau on a 1-yard run. He rushed for 40 yards and also threw for 70.