NEW BETHLEHEM — With Elk County Catholic poised to extend its second-half lead, the lights went off.
When power was restored over 20 minutes later at Redbank Valley High School, the Crusaders failed to find the end zone on downs late in the third quarter. They were up 20-18 at the time and as it turned out, it was the Bulldogs who scored the second half’s only touchdown.
Keaton Kahle’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Hetrick with 5:18 left in the game lifted Redbank Valley to a 24-20 win in a key Small School South Division matchup Friday night. The Bulldogs hiked their record to 3-0, 2-0 in the division while the Crusaders dropped to 1-2 and 1-1.
The Crusaders had rallied from an 18-6 first-half deficit and appeared to be ready to extend their lead when Stephen Bobby’s 27-yard run put the Crusaders at the 13. But after the power outage delay because of a nearby utility pole getting struck by a vehicle, the Crusaders went back three yards on four downs.
“We just made sure we got lined up the right way,” said Wasilowski of what his staff went over with the defense during the delay. “We wanted to make sure that everybody knew their jobs and luckily they ran something the set was designed to stop.”
Wasilowski said the even more bigger break than the delay was Bobby presumably cramping up and slipping on a play that could’ve been a touchdown run, or at least a run much closer to the goal line.
“It could’ve played out the same way, but they might have scored. You never know,” Wasilowski said. “It would’ve been a lot closer to the end zone on that run, though, if he doesn’t fall.”
Then in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs went 55 yards on just four plays, taking advantage of two Crusaders personal fouls totaling 30 yards, to take the lead for good on Kahle’s toss to Hetrick.
Hunter Buzard’s second interception of ECC quarterback Mason McAllister sealed the win with 2:24 left.
“Hunter made a nice move to get into the end zone on his return for the touchdown,” Wasilowski said. “He’s been a real nice surprise, a first-year senior. He’s been a welcome addition.”
Kahle completed 7 of 16 passes for 68 yards and threw two touchdown passes to Hetrick along with two interceptions while running for 49 yards on eight carries. Hunter Wiles ran for 88 yards on 15 carries.
For ECC, Bobby ran for 176 yards on 32 carries with TD runs of 3 and 4 yards. Wittman ran for 68 yards on two carries. McAllister completed 4 of 17 passes for 61 yards with the two interceptions.
The teams traded scores early as Travis Crawford scored on a 4-yard run at the 6:56 mark of the first quarter. Bobby and the Crusaders answered by the end of the quarter when he scored on a 3-yard run one play after Bryan Schatz blocked a Hudson Martz punt.
“It was a bad snap on the blocked punt and it was a turning point for them,” Wasilowski said.
The Bulldogs answered that TD with an eight-play drive on the ensuing possession, hitting Hetrick on their 11-yarder at the 10:59 mark. Three plays later, they went up 18-6 when Buzard returned his first pickoff of McAllister for a touchdown.
But the Crusaders scored twice before halftime. Two plays after Buzard’s return, Wittman went 63 yards. He picked off Kahle at the Crusaders’ 18 on the next drive and they turned the turnover into points by going 82 yards on 12 plays with Bobby scoring on a 4-yard run with 1:39 left before halftime.
“All we needed was one play, one big play in our favor,” Wasilowski said of his halftime discussion with the team. “I told kids ECC had all the breaks in the first half. We’ll get the breaks in second half because they tend to even out. Hunter broke an inside trap, a big run on the drive we scored. We finally got the one play we needed. I thought we were close a lot, but different things went wrong on some plays.”
Wittman picked off Kahle again on the first possession of the second half, allowing the Crusaders to drive deep into Bulldogs territory before the power outage, but they came up empty and the Bulldogs rallied for the win in the fourth.
The Crusaders host Port Allegany this Friday. Redbank Valley travels to Sheffield Saturday afternoon.