NEW BETHLEHEM — Early-season injuries chipping away at the team’s depth and numbers, the Redbank Valley Bulldogs are 2-0 going into this Friday’s showdown with Elk County Catholic.
Taking control in the second half and putting away Otto-Eldred in a 31-8 divisional crossover win last Friday at home, head coach Ed Wasilowski’s team had him using superlatives afterward.
“We had so many ninth-graders and kids playing for the first time. It’s a tribute to my coaches to get them ready,” Wasilowski said. “We’re down two starters on the offensive line and Blane Gold had them ready. We had guys cramping up in the secondary and Jason and Mike had guys ready. I just can’t say enough about the whole team. This is the most gratifying win I’ve been a part of since I’ve been at Redbank.”
Up 12-8 at halftime, the Bulldogs blanked the Terrors in the second half, scoring on three straight possessions in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“To hold them to eight points after what I saw on tape this year and then last year, I’m extremely pleased, especially with the guys we have out,” Wasilowski said. “I told the guys at halftime, I showed them we had seven kids, three or four starters, standing there and brought everyone over and told them to look at them and we have a lot of guys hurt and you can use that as an excuse or it’s an opportunity to make something special and I just told them they answered that question.”
Travis Crawford and Keaton Kahle each ran for two touchdowns. Kahle completed 10 of 13 passes for 162, but the Bulldogs defense bending but not breaking much at all was the key to the win.
With the Bulldogs holding on to an 18-8 lead after Kahle’s first TD run from two yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Terrors marched to the Bulldogs’ 10 where on third-and-four, Sam Hetrick picked off a Cole Sebastian pass and returned it 85 yards to the Terrors’ 15. Two plays later, Kahle scored on an 8-yarder to put the Bulldogs up 25-8 with 9:32 left in the game.
“We were waiting for that from Sam,” Wasilowski said. “He just gets a little confidence, maybe that kick-starts him. He’s a great athlete, he can do it and he just has to believe he can do that and hopefully that’ll get him started.”
From there, the Bulldogs stopped the Terrors on downs at their own 38 and capped the game’s scoring on Crawford’s 1-yard run with 3:32 remaining.
The Bulldogs outgained the Terrors, 246-216, limiting them to 21 yards on the ground and forcing three turnovers. Sebastian did complete 22 of 38 passes for 195 yards, but Hetrick and Dalton Bish came up with interceptions and the Bulldogs sacked Sebastian four times. Ethan Hetrick had two sacks with Hunter Wiles and Joe Mansfield adding sacks.
“We went all man, didn’t go any zone and the kids rose to the occasion,” Wasilowski said. “We took two linebackers out and put in two defensive backs, so we tried to put as much speed in as we could and it just worked.
“I thought we should’ve had more turnovers but some balls went through our hands, but to hold them to eight points … Cameron Magee is a helluva football player, and the quarterback is a good player. You get him on linebackers and it’s tough. I’m real proud of our kids.”
The Bulldogs scored the first two times they touched the ball on Crawford’s 4-yard run and Wiles’ 2-yard run to go up 12-0 with 2:26 left in the first quarter.
Otto-Eldred’s only score came on a 91-yard drive that took 12 plays in the second quarter. The drive actually went 99 yards since the drive started with one of Ethan Hetrick’s sacks of Sebastian back to the Terrors’ 1. But Sebastian rallied the Terrors down the field and tossed a 12-yard shovel pass to Magee for their only touchdown with 1:33 left in the half.
The drive changed the tone of the game, from the Bulldogs appearing to having things in control to a close game, and led to Wasilowski’s heart-to-heart talk at halftime.
“I thought we were and maybe they’d have trouble with us inside and then we gave them that 99-yard drive and hat’s off to them,” Wasilowski said. “Not many high school teams can do that and they did. We had them on some down and distance plays that were favorable to us, but they have great athletes.”
Magee caught seven passes for 74 yards while Chris Connelly grabbed five passes for 92 yards.