NEW BETHLEHEM — Stifling another opponent and turning in a second shutout in a row for the first time in 11 years, the unbeaten Redbank Valley Bulldogs overwhelmed visiting Curwensville, 39-0, last Thursday night.
Similar to last week against Smethport, the Bulldogs were stingy defensively at the line of scrimmage, limiting the Golden Tide to just 62 yards — 19 yards in the first half and 43 yards in the second half — and the Tide gained 30 yards on their second offensive play of the game on a Dan McGarry pass to Jake McCracken. In their previous game, the Bulldogs limited Smethport to just 78 yards on 52 plays from scrimmage.
“Two shutouts in a row and it’s been a long time since you can say that at Redbank Valley,” said Bulldogs head coach Blane Gold of his team’s first back-to-back shutouts since 2008. “I don’t care how down Curwensville is this year, but they’ve been one of the most physical teams from (the old AML). … We want to be what they’ve been historically, so anytime we can get a win like that, we’re happy.”
Now that’s 7-0 for the Bulldogs for the first time since 2014 and with Saturday’s trip to another unbeaten team in Coudersport. Another win would take the program to 1996 the last time that an 8-0 start occurred.
“The 7-0 is special to us, but we have preached to stop the run, beat the teams from the (AML),” Gold said. “We circled Elk County Catholic, Smethport and Curwensville for our first three and we’re really happy to be 3-0 against them.”
The Bulldogs’ win served as a solid tuneup for Coudersport as they totaled 386 yards of offense, 194 rushing and 192 passing. Quarterback Gunner Mangiantini completed 13 of 21 passes for 131 yards and three touchdowns, all of them coming in the second quarter with two to Ethan Hetrick and one to Sam Hetrick.
Both Hetricks wound up catching two TD passes, Sam grabbing a deflected pass in the air on a jump ball in the third quarter on a pass from backup Cam Wagner and racing 61 yards for the touchdown to set the PIAA Mercy Rule running clock into motion at the 2:27 mark. Sam caught four passes for 96 yards, which included a 15-yard TD pass from Mangiantini in the second quarter. Ethan grabbed four balls for 66 yards, his TDs going 33 and 31 yards.
The Bulldogs had nine different rushers with Mangiantini’s 64 yards on seven carries leading the way. Kobe Bonanno ran for 40 yards on four carries, scoring the team’s first two TDs in the first quarter on runs of 11 and 1 yards.
“We wanted to throw the ball a little bit, looking to next week a little, and I felt Gunner did a good job at times throwing the ball,” Gold said. “We have some things to clean up, but we were happy we threw the ball around a little bit. We know what our running game gives us, so we wanted to spread it out and Gunner did a decent job throwing.”
The Tide managed just five first downs, turned the ball over four times with Bulldogs junior Dalton Bish intercepting two passes, and never got closer to the end zone than the Bulldogs’ 40.
Duane Brady ran for 46 yards on 15 carries, the rest of the Tide offense combining for just 16 yards on 28 plays from scrimmage. McGarry completed just 2 of 12 passes for 34 yards and was intercepted three times.
It took the Bulldogs five plays to got 72 yards to score on the game’s opening possession, Bonanno scoring on his 11-yarder.
Bish’s first interception gave the Bulldogs the ball at the 17 near the end of the first quarter. Five plays later, it was Bonanno bulling his way in from one yard out. A second failed two-point try put the Bulldogs up 12-0 with 17 seconds left in the first quarter.
It didn’t take the Bulldogs long to score again with Bish’s second pickoff three plays later setting the Bulldogs up at their own 47. A 20-yard pass to Sam Hetrick set up Mangiantini’s 33-yarder to Ethan Hetrick on the third play of the second quarter. Bonanno’s two-point run made it 20-0.
With Curwensville managing just one first down in the first half and turning the ball over, the Bulldogs were getting plenty of chances to score, including twice in the final 57 seconds of the first half.
Mangiantini’s 15-yarder to Sam Hetrick made it 26-0 with 57 seconds left. He gave the ball back to his team with an interception on the next play from scrimmage and two plays later from the Tide 31, Mangiantini hit Ethan Hetrick on their 31-yarder with 28 seconds on the clock for a 32-0 halftime lead.
Needing to score just once more to get the PIAA Mercy Rule’s running clock going, the Bulldogs scored on their second possession of the third quarter. Wagner, the Bulldogs’ backup quarterback, threw a pass to Sam Hetrick down the Tide sideline. The high jump specialist got up in the air against Jake Mullins, came down with the batted ball and got away from two Tide defenders for a 61-yard TD hookup with 2:27 left in the quarter.
From there, things went quickly and the Bulldogs’ backups were stopped on downs at the Tide 4 in the closing seconds.