BROCKWAY — It’s definitely still football season, not wrestling.
However, one might think of the winter sport considering that it’s Redbank Valley vs. Reynolds in the PIAA quarterfinals this Saturday afternoon at Brockway’s Varischetti Field starting at 4 p.m.
The District 10 Raiders (8-0) won their first title since 2005. The longtime state wrestling power has a handful of wrestlers on the roster, including their top running back in returning state medalist Cole Toy. Of course, the Bulldogs have a large part of their wrestling roster on the football team as well.
On the mat, the teams haven’t met in a dual meet since 2008 when the Raiders beat the Bulldogs at Brookville’s Ultimate Duals, but it’s an annual matchup in the individual postseason at regionals. Last spring, both team’s heavyweights were state qualifiers with Reynolds’ Rocco John-Daniello beating Kobe Bonanno twice at regionals.
That could be a big line showdown as the matchup appears to be a physical struggle waiting to happen. The Bulldogs have given up just 323 rushing yards all season — Northern Bedford was minus-5 yards on 27 attempts last week — on 232 attempts.
And rushing is what Reynolds almost exclusively does. The Raiders have thrown just 47 passes all season, rushing for 321 yards per game. Cole Toy, who ran for 171 yards and three TDs on 28 carries in last week’s 27-0 win over Eisenhower in the D10 final, has rushed for 1,105 yards and 22 TDs. Dreyvin Livingston (66-607, 5 TDs), Jalen Wagner (36-347, 3 TDs) and Aidan Mull (44-274, 5 TDs) are the other rushing options.
Quarterback Brayden McCloskey, 3-for-8 for 30 yards last week, has completed 19 of 45 passes for 257 yards with three TDs and two interceptions.
“We have a really good Reynolds team waiting for us,” Bulldogs head coach Blane Gold said after beating Northern Bedford. “They took it to a very good Eisenhower team, so we’re anxious to get on the tape and keep battling.”
The Raiders have shut out three of their last four foes. How tough the team’s schedule is an unknown considering they played probably their toughest foe twice in West Middlesex (27-20 in opener and 36-14 later). They also beat Mercer twice (47-0 and 41-0) with two wins over re-started program Kennedy Catholic (75-14 and 34-18) as well. The other win was a 40-0 rout of Cambridge Springs (40-0).
Cambridge Springs is 6-2 while Mercer (3-5), West Middlesex (4-3) and Kennedy Catholic (0-7) were the other records of foes Reynolds beat.
Defensively, the Raiders are led in tackles by Toy (6.9 per game) and John-Daniello (6.8). Luke Faber and John-Daniello lead the team with seven and six sack respectively. Clayton Rhoades and Dreyvin Livingston each have three interceptions as the Raiders have 14 for the season.
The Raiders were giving up 155 yards per game, just 62.6 rushing, going into their win over Eisenhower in which they limited the Knights to 71 yards.
The Bulldogs had five interceptions alone in last week’s win over Northern Bedford, putting a big takeaway game together in a season where the turnover ratio hasn’t been much of a factor. The Bulldogs had five interceptions for the season before the Panthers and 11 takeaways overall before forcing six against Northern Bedford.
Against Northern Bedford, Chris Marshall led the team with 10 tackles followed by Hudson Martz’s nine stops. Joe Mansfield, Aiden Ortz and Coltin Bartley each finished with seven stops.
For the year, Mansfield leads the team with 7.1 tackles per game and hiked his leading sack total to 9.5. Trenten Rupp, who had a forced fumble, sack and two interceptions against Northern Bedford, now has a team-high three pickoffs for the season.
Sophomore Cam Wagner gets his second straight playoff start at quarterback. He completed 10 of 22 passes for 86 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions last week. He’s completed 30 of 56 for 313 yards with six TDs and three interceptions overall.
Marshall’s four catches for 69 yards and a TD led the Bulldogs receivers last week. He’s one of five with 10 or more receptions with 10 for 155 yards and four TDs. Dalton Bish (18-173, 2 TDs), Marquese Gardlock (16-258, 3 TDs), Rupp (10-123, 3 TDs) and Tate Minich (13-78, 1 TD) are the others.
The running game gained 158 yards for the second straight game. The Bulldogs are averaging 119 per game with Ray Shreckengost (81-416, 1 TD) and Hudson Martz (57-270, 4 TDs). Expect Bonanno to line up under center as he did last week in short yardage situations. He had five carries last week totaling four yards with two 1-yard TD runs.
Saturday’s winner gets the WPIAL champion — either Jeanette or Clairton — in next week’s semifinals. Those two meet at North Hills High School’s Martorelli Stadium on Saturday at 11 a.m.