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First-timer: Defense sparks Bulldogs in 28-15 win over Northern Bedford

Redbank Valley's Chris Marshall runs into the end zone for his 33-yard touchdown reception from Cam Wagner during the first quarter of Saturday's game against Northern Bedford in Windber. Marshall also had an interception, helping the Bulldogs to a 28-15 win over the Panthers at Windber Stadium.

WINDBER, Pa. — Dominating the trenches once again, the Redbank Valley Bulldogs were very defensive on their way to the program’s first PIAA state playoff victory Saturday afternoon against Northern Bedford.

Cashing in on three of what turned out to be six Northern Bedford turnovers into touchdowns, the Bulldogs raced to a 21-0 first-half lead and beat the District 5 champions, 28-15, at Windber Stadium.

It was certainly a playoff-worthy performance on what was anything but typical November playoff weather with temperatures in the low 70s.

Next up for the Bulldogs (8-0) is a quarterfinal matchup with District 10’s Reynolds next weekend at what appears to be a District 9 site and time to be announced.

In their fourth state playoff game, they Bulldogs won for the first time, without starting quarterback Gunner Mangiantini. He’s out for the season with a knee injury sustained at the end of last week’s win over Smethport.

“You think about the adversity that they’ve overcome, I don’t think many people gave us a puncher’s chance to win when 18 guys went out before Coudersport, and then I just said to them before the game, with all the adversity that you’ve dealt … you lost those guys for practice,” Bulldogs head coach Blane Gold said. “Why not win the first state playoff game in school history with our backup quarterback. Why not?”

Sophomore quarterback Cam Wagner, who threw three TD passes in the D9 semifinal win over Coudersport, played well enough and threw a 33-yard TD to Chris Marshall for the game’s first points. But this win was set up by another strong performance by the Bulldogs defense.

The Bulldogs limited a Panthers offense that came in averaging 40.1 points and 391 yards to just 147 yards on 63 plays. The Panthers only scored one offensive touchdown late in the fourth quarter with the game already sealed up.

Northern Bedford quarterback Thad Leidy, who went over 4,000 passing yards for his career in the loss, was backpedaling and avoiding the Bulldogs rush all afternoon. He completed just 15 of 35 passes for 152 yards with four interceptions and was sacked four times totaling 39 yards in losses.

Going into the Panthers’ last two possessions with the Bulldogs leading 28-8, Leidy was just 8-for-22 for 77 yards and the four interceptions. And the Panthers’ running game, counting the sack yardage, went for minus-five yards on 27 attempts.

“A ton of credit goes to our defense,” Gold said. “I think their quarterback went over 4,000 yards today and two running backs with close to 1,000 yards. This was a very, very good offense with a ton of weapons and our goal was to take away the running game and force them to throw it and I think that worked to perfection today.”

The early turnovers set the tone quickly.

After the Bulldogs went three and out offensively to start the game, the Panthers fumbled it away on their first play with Tate Minich recovering at the Panthers’ 44. Five players later, Wagner found Marshall for their 33-yard scoring strike.

“I went over to coach (Jake) Dougherty and said they wanted something back-side with Chris,” Wagner said. “Chris beat his guy off the ball and I just kind of chucked it up and he ran under it and made a good play.”

“I had to just finish it and make the play,” Marshall said.

Listen to Chris Marshall, Cam Wagner and Joe Mansfield talk about Saturday’s win over Northern Bedford.

Minich picked off Leidy on the Panthers’ third-and-25 play from their own 14, giving the Bulldogs the ball at the Northern Bedford 44. Seven plays later Kobe Bonnano powered in for the first of his two 1-yard TD runs as quarterback in the short yardage situations.

Then in the second quarter, the teams traded interceptions — the Bulldogs turned it over three times, making it nine combined for the game — the second one a Marshall interception that gave the Bulldogs the ball at the Panther’s 27. Two plays later, Hudson Martz went in from 10 yards out for the 21-0 lead at the 8:52 mark of the second quarter.

“You look at that 14-0 start that was the difference in that game, so that was big,” Gold said. “And Cam made some big throws. Chris Marshall and Marquese Gardlock showed up for football on the first day of camp. And they’ve been total difference makers.”

Northern Bedford (7-2) scored its first points on a safety when the Bulldogs’ Brenden Shreckengost was tackled for a 3-yard loss in his own end zone. Perhaps grabbing some momentum, it was stopped on the first play after the free kick when Trenten Rupp intercepted Leidy for the second time.

However, the Panthers scored three plays after that when Brady Clark intercepted Wagner on a third-and-16 pass from the Bulldogs’ 23 and returned it 40 yards to the end zone.

But the Panthers weren’t able to move the ball until it didn’t matter.

The Bulldogs put the game away midway through the fourth quarter. After stopping the Panthers on downs at the Northern Bedford 41, the Bulldogs took nearly five minutes off the lock with eight straight running plays, the last three from Bonanno under center, who finally got in on his second 1-yarder to make it 28-8 with 6:47 left in the game.

Redbank Valley’s third turnover led to the Panthers’ only offensive drive of the game, 78 yards on eight plays with Dalton Smith scoring on a 2-yard run with 1:53 left, setting the final score.

REDBANK VALLEY 28, NORTHERN BEDFORD 15

Score By Quarters

Redbank Valley        14     7   0    7   —  28

Northern Bedford      0    0   8    7   —   15

First Quarter

R – Chris Marshall 33 pass from Cam Wagner (Landon Pence kick), 9:10.

R – Kobe Bonanno 1 run (Pence kick), 7:20.

Second Quarter

R – Hudson Martz 10 run (Pence kick), 8:52.

Third Quarter

N – Safety, Brenden Shreckengost tackled in end zone, 8:03.

N – Brady Clark 40 interception return (pass failed), 5:57.

Fourth Quarter

B – Kobe Bonanno 1 run (Pence kick), 6:47.

N – Dalton Smith 2 run (Collin Yates kick), 1:53.

     R                  NB

First downs           14                 9

Rushes-yards       41-158         27-(-5)

Comp-Att-Int        10-22-2       15-36-5

Passing Yards       86                152

Total Plays-Yards 63-243        63-147

Fumbles-Lost       4-1               1-1

Punts                     4-33            4-48.5

Penalties-Yards    10-74           9-77

TEAM STATISTICS

Rushing — Redbank Valley: Ray Shreckengost 16-84, Brenden Shreckengost 8-48, Hudson Martz 9-32, Kobe Bonanno 5-4, Cam Wagner 3-(-10). Northern Bedford: Cadin Ebersole 4-22, Brady Clark 2-10, Dalton Smith 16-(-1), Thad Leidy 5-(-36).

Passing — Redbank Valley: Cam Wagner 10-for-22, 86 yards, 1 TD, 2 Ints. Northern Bedford: Thad Leidy 15-for-35, 152 yards, 4 Ints.; Brady Clark 0-for-1, 1 Int.

Receiving — Redbank Valley: Chris Marshall 4-69, Dalton Bish 1-13, Trenten Rupp 2-9, Ray Shreckengost 1-0, Tate Minich 2-(-5). Northern Bedford: Evan Clouse 3-50, Brooks Snider 2-29, Brady Clark 4-25, Dalton Smith 2-21, Kainen Baker 1-18, Cadin Ebersole 3-9.

Interceptions —  Redbank Valley: Tate Minich, Chris Marshall, Trenten Rupp 2, Dalton Bish. Northern Bedford: Cadin Ebersole, Brady Clark.

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