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Written by: Phil Myers on Tuesday, December 7th, 2021
No District 9 team has been to the state finals in football since 1992! That’s 29 years! That’s inconceivable! The Redbank Valley Bulldogs put an end to that streak when they came from behind to beat Bishop Canevin out of the mighty WPIAL (District 7) by a score of 23-14 this past Friday night at Martorelli Stadium (North Hills High School). Redbank’s head coach Blane Gold said, “We’re playing for District 9 just as much as we’re playing for our community.”
Redbank Valley Head Coach Blane Gold
Redbank Valley High School is a little single A school located in New Bethlehem about one hour northeast of Pittsburgh. “Friday night was the farthest any sports team in our school has ever made it (in the PIAA playoffs). So, they already made history,” stated Gold. In fact, Redbank is only the third D-9 team to make the football state championship game and no District 9 team has ever won a state football title. In 1989 Dunmore beat Keystone 57-18 and in 1992 Scotland School defeated Smethport 24-7, both for the Class A title.
When asked what this means to the school and the community Gold said, “Oh man, it’s been incredible! We had a massive escort on our way home from the game Friday. The entire community just wants to do everything for us. The school district is busing our kids to the game and any kid who doesn’t want to go to the game gets to sit in the auditorium and watch the game there. There are businesses that have paid for fan buses to go to the game. People are coming out of nowhere and are being so generous.”
Gold continued by saying, “We’re doing our best to enjoy it, but at the same time we still have one more game left. So, it’s been exciting and it’s been good for us because in October we had a month-long teacher strike that was pretty divisive for our community. So, it’s really good to see everybody uniting under this.”
Gold was then asked what this means for District 9. “This is special. We have talked to the kids about that. We felt that going into Friday night, it was not only for District 9 but it gives the players and teams across the district the realization that the dreams don’t have to end at the district championship. That you can be competitive. That we can compete at the PIAA level. One thing that has helped is Farrell is now in 2A. Look at the match-ups, Districts 9, 10, and 5 are very comparable now.”
Coach Gold talked briefly about the play that turned the semi-final game around for the Bulldogs. Bishop Canevin was leading 14-7 midway through the third quarter and had the ball at the Redbank 11 looking to go up 21-7. The Canevin quarterback threw a slant pass over the middle that was picked off by Redbank’s Chris Marshall and returned 98 yards to tie the game. “That pick 6 was the biggest moment in the history of all sports here at Redbank. A lot of people that are D-9 historians say that may be the most historic D-9 football play ever and most certainly in the last 30 years. Even though that didn’t put us in the lead, that changed everything. It completely changed the momentum. You could tell they weren’t expecting that and things started to go awry for them.”
Chris Marshall in action vs. Bishop Canevin.
Chris Marshall was quoted as saying, “We came out and put on a show for our fans and our community. That’s what we intend to do when we go to Hershey.” Coach Gold had these final thoughts, “We are doing our best to keep in perspective because we got a really, really tall task up against us on Thursday going up against BG (Bishop Guilfoyle) which is the standard of single A football in the state. This definitely is a surreal feeling. I’m really happy for our community and I’m happy for the kids as it’s pretty well documented that our season did not get off to a good start. We continue to use that week 1 loss as motivation.”
According to one District 9 official, “It’s a pretty big deal” (to have a team in the state finals for football). In addition, best wishes and good luck messages have been pouring in from all over including one from former Steeler great, Rocky Bleier. Stay tuned as the Redbank Valley Bulldog football team just might make a little more history starting Thursday at 1:00 at Hersheypark Stadium.
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