NEW BETHLEHEM — A fast start by visiting Elk County Catholic caught Redbank Valley a bit off-guard and the Crusaders spoiled the Bulldogs’ first playoff game in six years with a 5-2 win Monday night.
The win lands the Crusaders (8-9-2) in next Monday’s District 9 Class A semifinals against top-seeded Brockway at DuBois Area High School starting at 7 p.m. It’s the second of two semifinal games with No. 2 seed Clarion-Limestone facing No. 3 Coudersport at 5 p.m.
Redbank Valley, which hadn’t been in the playoffs since 2013, finished its season 7-9-1.
“We never quit and I’m proud of our guys. We have to look at the big picture, not just this game. It’s bigger than that,” Bulldogs head coach A.J. Blose said. “We came from three years ago having two seasons with no wins. It’s hard to look that far back, but we have to look where we’re going and not where we’ve been. We have to come back next year with a little bit more.”
The Crusaders scored three times in the first 12:09 and it was Regis Wortman and Edward Messineo causing the Bulldogs’ defense all kinds of problems with their playmaking ability. Messineo had a hat trick while setting up the first of two Wortman goals.
Wortman scored just 1:48 into the game off a Messineo assist. Almost four minutes later, Messineo scored again and then added a third goal on a header at the 27:51 mark, taking a feed from Isaac Wortman to make it 3-0 quickly.
“We didn’t have anybody to match (Wortman),” Blose said. “He was too quick, honestly. We tried. The defense was sluggish getting going, realizing how fast he really was. He caught us off-guard in the beginning with the first goal in particular. After that, we eliminated the long ball threat for the most part.
“A couple garbage goals at the beginning took the wind out of us and that took us awhile to recover. After that it was pretty much even after that. Hat’s off to them. They played for 80 minutes and we played for 60.”
Wortman took some time in the net as goalkeeper as well when starter John Tettis was issued a yellow card — one of three given to the Crusaders with the Bulldogs getting one as well — after Tettis and the Bulldogs’ Koltin Kline got tangled up after Tettis stopped a Kline shot in the first half.
That was after Kline got the Bulldogs on the board earlier, just over three minutes after ECC went up 3-0 at the 24:35 mark.
But Wortman’s second goal of the first half was a back-breaker, coming with just 31 seconds left in the half to put the Crusaders up 4-1.
Again, the Bulldogs got within two goals quickly in the second half on Kline’s second goal at the 36:40 mark.
“At the half, we talked about scoring a goal every 10 minutes,” Blose said. “That’s what we needed and never really got that break. But we never quit and that was big.”
It stayed 4-2 until Messineo secured his hat trick on an unassisted goal with 9:08 remaining.
The Crusaders outshot the Bulldogs, 17-6 and held a 5-1 edge in corner kicks. Bulldogs goalkeeper Owen Magagnotti made 12 saves to Tettis’ four.