RIMERSBURG – Coming off a season-opening loss to Clarion-Limestone, the Union/A-C Valley Falcon Knights forged back and defeated visiting Sheffield 47-0 last Friday night at Vidunas Stadium.
For first-year head coach Brad Dittman, the victory was his first at Union/ACV. He praised his team for its all-around decisive winning effort after a rough outing in its opener, limiting Sheffield to just one first down and 49 yards of offense.
“It feels awesome,” said Dittman, whose team heads to Curwensville in a Small School South divisional game this Friday. “The kids have been working hard all summer long. We had a rough week last week. We knew we did a lot of good things against C-L, but the score just didn’t reflect it. We worked real hard this week on cleaning up the details and it payed off on the scoreboard. I’m super-proud of these guys. Kudos to them.”
The Falcon Knights led 28-0 at halftime and put the game into the PIAA Mercy Rule running clock mode late in the third quarter when Rainey’s 26-yard TD pass from Luke Bowser put them up 40-0 at the 3:02 mark.
Defensively, Joe Dehart finished the game with one tackle and a sack. Caleb Penny contributed seven tackles, with Dalton Callander and Brady Cullen each ending Sheffield drives with interceptions.
On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Luke Bowser was extremely efficient, going 5-for-7 for 74 yards and a touchdown while adding two TD runs of 1 and 10 yards, both in the first half.
Freshman running back Caden Rainey scored on runs of 19 and 42 in the first half while catching a pass from Bowser and racing 26 yards for a TD as well in the second.
Union/ACV began its first offensive scoring drive after a backpedaling Callander intercepted Wolverines quarterback Steve Loiewski at the Falcon Knights’ 45 on the second play from scrimmage. Rainey punctuated the possession with a 19-yard run to the left corner for the first score of the game at the 8:45 mark.
Sheffield continue to struggle, with a bad snap recovered by Union/ACV giving the Falcon Knights prime field position at the Wolverines’ 27.
The Falcon Knights turned that into points when Bowser sneaked the ball over the goal line from the 1 to hike the score to .
In the second quarter, Rainey and Bowser once again used their legs to increase the lead with touchdown runs of 42 and 10 respectively.
Sheffield looked to cut the Falcon Knights’ lead and get on the scoreboard in the third quarter, as Loiewski connected with receiver Anthony Rivera for a 39-yard gain, its longest of the night. But the Falcon Knights defense held firm, forcing a 4th-and-11 throw from Loiewski. The ball was tipped up by Russ Carr and Brady Cullen made a diving effort to record an interception.
“I’m proud of everybody, both offensively and defensively,” Dittman said. “I thought we did a good job trying to get our passing game going. We did better than we did last week, so we worked hard on it this week. We’re going to continue to work hard on our passing game and be a more balanced offense. Just a total team effort from the coaches and kids.”
Bowser threw a screen pass to Cumberland shortly thereafter the pick, and the Falcon Knights’ offensive line paved the way for a 41-yard gain. That set up another big gainer, on Cumberland’s TD run from 24 yards out.
Bowser also connected with Rainey later in the period for a 26-yard catch to up the lead to 40-0.
With just under six minutes remaining in the game, Tanner Merwin rushed in from five yards out for the final score.
Dittman hopes the big game from the Falcon Knights will act as a springboard for the rest of the season, noting that he and his staff have seen the team improve since their first scrimmage.
“We’ve seen even bigger strides coming into this game,” Dittman said. We just need to continue to improve week in and week out. I think they are starting to gel. This was what they needed to get them rolling and I hope it propels us through the season.”