WINDBER, Pa. — It’s off to District 5 territory for the District 9 champion Redbank Valley Bulldogs Saturday afternoon.
The Class 1A champion Bulldogs (6-0) face the Northern Bedford Panthers (7-1) at the turfed Windber High School stadium at 1 p.m. in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
The winner advances to the PIAA quarterfinals Nov. 13 or 14 against the District 10 champion. That final is Friday night when Reynolds visits Eisenhower.
The Bulldogs haven’t been in a state playoff game since obviously the last time they won a district title, Class 2A, back in 1996 when they lost 19-0 to Wilmington. In 1992, the Bulldogs lost to Fairview (26-18) and in 1991 they lost to Hickory (26-12), both also in Class 2A against District 10 foes.
For the Panthers, it’s the first trip to states since 2017. They avenged last year’s D5 championship game loss to Tussey Mountain with a 32-7 win. It was NB’s seventh straight win after a season-opening 36-14 loss to Bellwood-Antis. Northern Bedford season results here.
It’s a big-stat team under head coach Gary Black. They’re averaging 40.8 points and 391 yards per game, led mostly by a senior-laden roster.
Senior quarterback Thad Leidy (84-fof-136, 1,285 yards, 12 TDs, 5 Ints.) and with 3,987 career yards passing, he’s 13 yards awhile from the 4,000 milestone. Senior running back Dalton Smith (106-856, 13 TDs) leads the running attack while senior Brady Clark (26-425, 2 TDs) and Smith (16-374, 4 TDs) are the top receivers. Senior running back Cadin Ebersole (51-495, 8 TDs) will also get carries out of the backfield.
Redbank Valley still hasn’t lost a game (season results here), improving to 6-0 after last week’s 20-6 win over Smethport. The Bulldogs’ strong defensive season will be tested by the Panthers. Head coach Blane Gold’s team has given up just five touchdowns all season while yielding only 149 yards per game defensively.
Teams haven’t been able to run at all against the Bulldogs, who have given up just 328 yards for the year on 1.6 yards per carry. Sack yardage accounts in that total, 23 for 60 yards in losses, but that still doesn’t change things a whole lot. Plus, it’s also showing what the Bulldogs have been able to do against teams’ passing games.
But this is the most dynamic offensive team the Bulldogs have faced this year with the balanced Panthers. Junior lineman Joe Mansfield (7.2 tackles per game, 7.5 sacks), Hudson Martz (6.5 tpg., 9 tackles for loss) and Kobe Bonanno (4.3, 9.5 tackles for loss) are the leading tacklers for the Bulldogs.
Redbank Valley hopes to build off last week’s rushing performance against Smethport, its 158 yards the best since the opening two weeks of the season.
Ray Shreckengost ran for 90 yards while junior quarterback Gunner Mangiantini rushed for 51 yards and a TD. That opened things up just enough for Mangiantini to throw two TD passes, completing 6 of 11 for 62 yards. Both scoring strikes were to Chris Marshall.
The Bulldogs average 260 yards per game offensively with Mangiantini (43-for-78, 494 yards, 8 TDs, 3 Ints.) sharing QB duties with sophomore Cam Wagner (20-for-34, 227 yards, 5 TDs, 1 Int.) the past few games. Wagner threw three TD passes in the semifinal win over Coudersport.
Shreckengost (65-332, 1 TD) and Martz (48-238, 3 TDs) along with Mangiantini (31-140, 2 TDs) are the leading rushers while Dalton Bish (17-160, 2 TDs), Marquese Gardlock (16-258, 3 TDs) and Trenten Rupp (8-114, 3 TDs) are the top receivers.
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