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D9 Class 1A final: Redbank Valley chases repeat, Union/ACV gets another crack at defending champs

Where much will be determined Friday night ... at Clarion University's Memorial Stadium when Redbank Valley and Union/A-C Valley play for the District 9 Class 1A title. (Photo by Mike Maslar)

CLARION — Meeting again on artificial turf, it’s a rematch of District 9 League Small School South rivals for the Class 1A title Friday night at Clarion University’s Memorial Stadium.

Defending champion Redbank Valley (10-1) meets Union/A-C Valley (9-2) for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The winner heads to the PIAA quarterfinals against the winner of the Reynolds/Northern Bedford game at a site and time to be announced.

After beating Smethport for their first D9 title since 1996, the Bulldogs played both of those teams last year, beating Northern Bedford (28-15) and losing to Reynolds (19-14) in a close game at Brockway.

To get a shot at either of those teams next week, the Bulldogs need to beat their rival Falcon Knights a second time. On a rainy night in Rimersburg on Oct. 22, the Bulldogs forced eight turnovers in a 28-6 win.

Neither team moved the ball much in that one as the Bulldogs took advantage of good field position and some non-offensive touchdowns with Ray Shreckengost’s fumble recovery in the end zone in the second quarter and Aiden Ortz’s 70-yard interception return.

Offensive yards were hard to come by on both sides of the ball with Redbank Valley outgaining Union/ACV, 149-133.

Even with the wet ball and rain affecting both teams’ offensive efficiency, it reflected what’s been going on all season with opposing offenses against both teams.

To note, the cumulative season numbers against the finalists:

— Redbank Valley: The Bulldogs have given up 93.7 yards per game — 418 yards rushing on 316 attempts (1.3 per carry) while foes have completed 54 of 141 passes for 613 yards with 14 interceptions.

— Union/ACV: The Falcon Knights have given up — 567 yards rushing on 279 attempts while completing 98 of 238 passes for 1,087 passes with 23 interceptions.

Redbank Valley schedules/results

Union/ACV schedules/results

Redbank Valley stats

Union/ACV stats

The defensive stars are many. On the Small School South All-Star team, Union/A-C Valley linebacker Carter Terwint was the Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year while Redbank Valley’s Joe Mansfield won his second straight Defensive Lineman of the Year honor.

There are others. While Terwint leads the Falcon Knights in tackles per game (6.5), Mikey Card (5.5), Landon Chalmers (5.3), Colton Murray (4.5), Andrew Verostek (4.2), Dawson Camper (3.9), Ryan Cooper (3.6) follow him on the leaderboard. Skyler Roxbury has eight interceptions with Cooper second with four pickoffs.

For the Bulldogs, Mansfield leads the team with 9.5 sacks and is third on the tackles per game list behind Zeldon Fisher (6.6) and Brenden Shreckengost (5.2). Brandon Ross has 5.5 sacks and is fourth on the unit at 4.2 stops per game. Ashton Kahle and Aiden Ortz have four and three interceptions respectively.

Both teams average similar yardage per game totals offensively, although the Bulldogs are more balanced with a strong debut season from senior quarterback Bryson Bain, who has thrown for 1,628 yards and 27 TDs, sharing the South Division’s Offensive MVP honor with Brockway quarterback Brayden Fox.

Ray Shreckengost leads the running game and was the workhorse last week in the win over Port Allegany with 200 yards on 29 carries. He’s rushed for 785 yards and 14 TDs this year.

The Falcon Knights are a bit more run-oriented with Mikey Card approaching 1,000 yards (926 on 119 carries, 7 TDs) while Dawson Camper has rushed for over 600 yards with a team-high 12 TDs. Quarterback Bailey Crissman has thrown for 965 yards and 13 TDs with 11 interceptions.

Both teams have found ways to the end zone other than through their offenses. The Bulldogs have scored 10 non-offensive TDs — Kahle has four punt returns — while the Falcon Knights have eight non-offensive scores.

Some odds and ends:

— It’s the third straight Class 1A final appearance for the Bulldogs, who beat Smethport 20-6 last year and lost to Coudersport 42-13 in 2019. Since their 1996 Class 2A title in a win over Port Allegany, the Bulldogs lost in title games in 2013 (55-0 to Clarion) and Brookville (Class 2A, 42-15) in 2004.

— Union/A-C Valley’s quarterfinal win over Cameron County was the co-operative program’s first playoff win and only the second overall if you consider both program’s individual history. A-C Valley won a Class 3A semifinal game in 1999 against Bradford before losing to Clearfield in the final. Union had never won a playoff game. It’s the sixth-year of the co-operative. The last three years, it lost playoff openers to Smethport twice and Redbank Valley, 32-6, in 2019 also at Clarion University.

— The Falcon Knights might be the only team to win two home playoff games in the same season, considering that D9 has historically used neutral fields in the semifinals and beyond.

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