BROCKWAY — Knowing what’s coming and then stopping it are two very different things sometimes in football.
District 10 champion Reynolds had thrown just 47 passes in its first seven games, so stopping the run was the primary mission for the Redbank Valley Bulldogs.
But in last Saturday’s 19-14 loss to the Raiders, the Bulldogs gave up a season-high 236 yards on the ground. Prior to that, the Bulldogs had allowed just 323 rushing yards in their first seven games.
Reynolds’ Cole Toy, also a returning state medalist in wrestling, ran for 135 yards on 27 carries and scored the game-clinching touchdown on a 2-yard run to put Reynolds up 19-7 with 6:51 remaining. The Bulldogs answered that score with their second TD of the game on the next possession, but the Raiders ran out the final 5:11, kneeling the clock out at the Bulldogs’ 3.
Next up for the 8-0 Raiders is WPIAL champion Jeannette Friday night at home in northern Mercer County. The Bulldogs’ season ended at 7-1.
“What made it all the more special about this season is the adversity that kids won through the Coudersport quarantine and the fact that we played all of the hard teams on our schedule,” Bulldogs head coach Blane Gold said. “We didn’t lose any games against anybody that had beat us in the past or was competitive with us in the past. So they ran the gauntlet.”
The Raiders were able to stay out of “and-long” situations that kept the Bulldogs from using their strength, pass rushing from the corners, and were able to hold the line battle to control the tempo.
“They were very good at what they do,” Gold said. “They’re very big up front and they didn’t do anything that we weren’t expecting. They came right at us and we knew that they were going to hit the off-tackle stuff or they were going to try to hit the jet sweep stuff outside.”
Toy ran for 93 of his yards in the second half while in the first half, the Raiders took advantage of a quick sequence of plays that put them up 13-0 early in the second quarter.
After the Raiders punted away to the Bulldogs after their first drive of the game, it took the defense four plays to come up with the first of three Bulldogs turnovers when Dreyvin Livingston intercepted Bulldogs quarterback Cam Wagner.
That set up a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive finished off by Mull’s 4-yard run three plays into the second quarter.
The Raiders then blooped an onsides kick just beyond the Bulldogs’ front line and the Raiders recovered at the Redbank 34.
Four plays later on third-and-19, quarterback Brayden McCloskey found Mull in the middle of the field on a short pass and Mull broke loose for a 43-yard TD to put the Raiders up 13-0 with nine minutes left in the half following Livingston’s point-after kick.
“The play we wish we could have back was the touchdown pass because that was something that we wanted to put them in, passing situations,” Gold said. “Technique-wise, we played it right. They just had a really good play call against ours. The kids did the right thing. They just got beat.”
McCloskey completed 5 of 7 passes for 77 yards. That’s the most completions and passing yards in a game this year for the Raiders. Mull caught four of the passes for 71 yards.
Redbank Valley was able to answer Reynolds’ final score with its own nine-play, 67-yard scoring drive capped by Wagner’s 17-yard pass to Chris Marshall.
“We were talking at halftime that we felt good outside of turning the ball over twice and giving them two scores,” Gold said. “We felt we were in a position to come out and take the lead in the second half. We felt we had that and got things moving and were in their territory, but turnovers just killed us tonight.”
Clayton Rhoades’ interception of Wagner on the third play of the second half didn’t lead to any Reynolds points after the Raiders stalled on downs at the Bulldogs’ 28. The Bulldogs stalled on drives at the Reynolds’ 40 and 36 before punting.
The second defensive stop for Reynolds set up the game-securing drive as it went 80 yards on eight plays to go up 19-7 with 6:51 remaining. Seven of those plays were Toy runs gaining 50 yards while two Bulldogs personal fouls totaling 28 yards — both calls appeared to be on the Bulldogs for bad language on the field.
The Bulldogs answered again to make things interesting as it took them seven plays to go 55 yards to score with Wagner hitting Trenten Rupp on a fourth-and-four play for a 12-yard TD pass with 5:11 remaining.
“That was a big throw to Trenten on fourth down to get us within five and give us a puncher’s chance,” Gold said.
But it was back to Reynolds’ ground and pound running game to run the clock out with eight of 10 plays coming on Toy runs before the Raiders kneeled things out, finishing off a game they had the ball nearly 31 minutes and ran 61 plays to the Bulldogs’ 38.
“The quick 13 points essentially what it came down to, then we shot ourselves in the foot with some penalties on that last (Reynolds) touchdown drive, but I’m proud of the way the kids fought back,” Gold said. “There was a feeling there that the 13-0 score could have possibly been a rout, but they scratched and clawed.”
The Bulldogs managed just 165 yards of offense with Wagner completing 14 of 21 passes for 96 yards with two interceptions to go with his two TD passes. Marshall caught four passes for 51 yards.
Ray Shreckengost was the only rusher in the game for the Bulldogs with 69 yards on 17 carries.
Gold felt his team’s schedule went a long way to getting the Bulldogs to the PIAA quarterfinals.
“i think that D9 Class 1A football was very strong this year,” he said. “I would still put Union/A-C Valley right up here with Reynolds as one of the best teams we’ve played, so you look at a lot of our football games and the fact that they fought and did everything they could to win games. It’s been a grind. We’ve been going since July and obviously something had to give tonight. Somebody was going to lose their first game and unfortunately it was us.”