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BORN TO RUN: Redbank Valley, Drew Byers Sprint Away From Keystone for 42-9 Victory

Saturday, September 16, 2023 @ 12:09 PM

Posted by Mike Kilroy

IMG_2023-9-16-182148KNOX, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The Redbank Valley football team didn’t want it to happen to them.

Clinging to a 13-3 lead after an uneven and out-of-sync first half against gritty Keystone on a sunbathed field on Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs were wary of becoming the next victim of the upset bug.

“We were just kind of reminded about what happened two years ago when we came down there,” said junior running back Drew Byers of Redbank Valley’s opening-game loss to the Panthers in 2021. “I really didn’t want that to happen again. We also knew Brockway just lost to Union/A-C Valley (on Friday night) and we didn’t want one of those headlines.”

No need to fret.

Redbank Valley (4-0) put together a dominant second half thanks to the legs of Byers to leave with a 42-9 win over Keystone.

(Pictured above, Drew Byers after a win last week)

Byers finished with 160 yards on 12 carries, the bulk of it coming in the second half, as the Bulldogs averaged more than 13 yards per carry in the game.

“I think sometimes there’s a misconception that teams that run the spread want to be dominant passing,” said Redbank Valley coach Blane Gold. “Our offensive coordinator (Mike) Kundick, he wants to run the ball more than we throw the ball. There’s no doubt about it. Our philosophy is we’re gonna go spread because it’s a guarantee that we’re going to take at least four guys out of the box. If you leave the remaining seven guys in the box, we’re going to take the one-on-one matchups on all four of our guys all day long.

“If you choose to double a Mason Clouse or an Ashton Kahle and we get a six-man box, we’re gonna hand it off every single time.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

In the second half, that was the look Redbank Valley got.

And Byers took full advantage.

In the first half, Wagner had more than 100 yards rushing, including a long, weaving touchdown run to open up the scoring for the Bulldogs after Keystone had ended a long drive with a field goal.

Wagner missed a couple of throws in the first half and Keystone was able to stay within striking distance.

Wagner rolled to his right and found Ashton George standing alone in the end zone for a 5-yard TD to increase the Bulldog lead to 13-3 with a little less than four minutes remaining in the second quarter.

But it was not the sharp Redbank Valley attack that had been mostly on display the first three weeks, save for a very rocky start in the opener.

Byers said playing at noon on Saturday as opposed to 7 p.m. on Friday may have contributed to the ragged beginning.

“I think it could have been — we’re not really morning guys,” Byers said, chuckling. “It’s a struggle to get up early and get on the bus.”

Keystone (0-4) threatened to cut into the Redbank lead just before the half as freshman quarterback Dom Corcetti hit senior Drew Slaugenhaupt for a 37-yard pass to the Redbank Valley 22. But that late drive ended when Ashton Kahle intercepted Corcetti in the end zone with less than a minute on the clock.

“Not only could it have been a three or four-point game, Keystone got the ball to start the second half,” Gold said. “So that was a huge play by Ashton Kahle. Obviously, Ashton has been a guy that’s been on the field for four years and has a really good feel for the game. That was a big-time play for him.”

In the second half, Byers took over.

His 35-yard run put the Bulldogs at the Keystone 22 and his next run was stopped short of the goal line at the 1. Wagner then capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge to make it 21-3.

That was significant as it took Keystone out of its game plan of milking the clock.

“We’re going to see a lot of what Keystone did, trying to shorten the game,” Gold said, “They basically weren’t snapping the ball until there was less than 10 seconds, five seconds (on the play clock). We told the kids if we can get a three-and-out or get off the field and then get it to 21-3, that changes everything.”

It did.

And Redbank continued to stomp on the gas.

The Bulldogs opened up a 28-3 lead when Mason Clouse took a bubble screen pass from Wagner and raced 68 yards for a touchdown.

On the ensuing kickoff, Rylan Rupp recovered a pooch kick at the Keystone 30. A play later, Byers scored again on a 30-yard run for a 35-3 lead.

Rupp approached Gold and told him he thought he could recover the short kick if placed near the Redbank sideline.

“I have to give a kid like Rylan Rupp credit,” Gold said. “Rylan came to me on the sidelines and said, ‘Hey, I think I can get this out there. I think I’m getting the look that I want.’ The pooch kick is something that we’ve used for three to four years. That was a big call on his part. We scored on the next play and essentially put the game away.”

Byers again keyed the final scoring drive for Redbank Valley with a 28-yard run on an option play. He capped it a play later with a 12-yard run at the end of the third quarter.

Freshman Eli Nellis scored on a 5-yard run with less than a minute remaining in the game for Keystone.

Redbank Valley nearly rushed for 300 yards in the win.

Wagner finished with 105 yards rushing on just eight attempts. He was also 9-of-15 passing for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

Clouse caught three passes for 103 yards to lead the Bulldogs.

Cornetti was 8-of-12 passing for 100 yards.

Jayce Weaver led the ground attack for Keystone with 58 yards. Nellis added 55.

Gold was pleased with how his team responded after a less-than-ideal beginning.

“How many times do we watch college football on Saturdays and you have major upsets?” Gold said. “The biggest thing that maybe the casual observer doesn’t keep in mind is that we’re gonna get every single team’s best game plan. They aren’t gonna roll over for anybody and it was very clear Keystone wasn’t gonna roll over. What we have to keep in mind is that every team we play is going to give us their absolute best.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

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