NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Central Clarion is the regular-season king of District 9.
The unbeaten Wildcats (10-0) left no doubt about that with a 35-14 win over previously unbeaten Redbank Valley (9-1) Friday night in New Bethlehem.
Rewatch the game
The win avenged a loss to the Bulldogs in last year’s regular-season finale for Central Clarion while also ending Redbank Valley’s 11-game regular-season win streak.
“It (last year’s loss) was talked about all week long,” Wildcat center Jake Smith said. “Coache’s pregame speech was all about last year. We waited 364 days to change that.”
Smith and the rest of the Central Clarion offensive line played a big role in changing the result from a year ago.
The Wildcats racked up 433 yards of total offense and were about as balanced as balanced could be rushing 48 times for 216 yards and throwing 21 passes for 217 yards.
“I feel like we probably played our best game of the season,” Smith said. “Our scout team D-line got us overly prepared for this game.”
Smith said the Wildcats realized they might have to run the ball because of Redbank Valley’s speed on the outside.
“We thought at some point we might have to resort to (the ground game) because of their amazing athletes that they have on the team. We were going to try to throw the ball, but obviously it didn’t work so we went to the run.”
Watch Smith’s entire Cole Orthodontic Associates postgame interview after he was named the Allegheny Grille of Foxburg Player of the Game.
While the game remained tight for most of the night, it was much lower scoring than some anticipated a contest between two teams averaging over 50 points per game.
After a scoreless first quarter, Central Clarion took a 14-7 lead at halftime before Redbank Valley tied it at 14 on a 67-yard Braylon Wagner to Ashton Kahle pass with 7:57 left in the third quarter.
Kahle was wide open on a play in which Mason Clouse went in motion like he was going to take a jet sweep pass with all the Wildcat defenders floating towards Clouse leaving Kahle all by himself uncovered on the Central Clarion sideline.
But Central Clarion answered right back and retook the lead, 21-14, on a 2-yard Ferguson run with 1:49 to play in the third.
Mason Burford then helped give the Wildcats the game’s first multi-touchdown lead with both his defense and his offense.
First, Burford intercepted a Wagner pass and returned it inside the 30-yard line where he fumbled the ball only to have teammate Dawson Smail recover.
Burfford then caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Ferguson with 10:32 left to put Central Clarion ahead 28-14.
The Burford interception was worse than just giving Central Clarion the ball back, as Wagner was hurt on the play and never returned.
The sophomore quarterback was seen on the bench with his jersey and pads off before having his shoulder wrapped. There was no immediate word on his condition.
With Wagner out, and backup quarterback Jaxon Huffman also out after a first-half injury, the Bulldogs had to turn to Kahle to run out of the Wildcat.
That turned disastrous when Kahle fumbled his first snap leading eventually to the putaway touchdown by Central Clarion on a 4-yard Noah Harrison run.
Redbank Valley got the game’s first turnover when Mason Clouse intercepted a Ferguson pass in the first quarter setting the Bulldogs up inside the Central Clarion 20-yard line.
The Bulldogs then moved to the 2-yard line where they faced third-and-goal.
On third down, Drew Byers stumbled to the two, and on fourth down Wagner was stopped short of the goal line giving the ball back to the Wildcats.
Central Clarion then embarked on an epic 20-play, 99-yard drive that ate up 9:28 off the clock and ended with a 7-yard Ferguson touchdown run with 9;29 left in the first half.
Unfazed, Redbank Valley answered right back scoring just over three minutes later on a 5-yard Drew Byers run to tie the game at 7.
Braylon Beckwith then gave the Wildcats a 14-7 halftime lead when he scored from a yard out with just 20 seconds left in the half.
Ferguson had another big day for Central Clarion going 14 of 21 passing for 217 yards, a touchdown, and an interception while rushing 28 times for 140 yards and two scores.
Burford had five catches for 82 yards with Brady Quinn adding three catches for 50 yards and four carries for 29 yards. Smail chipped in three grabs for 48 yards.
Wagner was 13 of 21 passing for 167 yards, a touchdown, and an interception before leaving the game with the injury.
Kahle caught six passes for 88 yards with Mason Cliuse adding five grabs for 64 yards.
Both teams are expected to secure top seeds in the District 9 playoffs with Redbank Valley in Class 1A and Central Clarion in Class 2A.