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Redbank Valley hopes to right ship in football playoffs

LTRedClarion4112513
Bill Shirley | For Trib Total Media
Redbank Valley's Jake Dougherty throws from the pocket during the PIAA District 9 playoff championship game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at DuBois.

Redbank Valley would like nothing more than to snap a pair of streaks.

The fourth-seeded Bulldogs can end their two-game losing streak by knocking off No. 5 Brockway in the playoffs for the first time in four tries when the teams meet in the District 9, Class A quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Friday in New Bethlehem.

Redbank Valley (7-2) was undefeated this season until losing a shootout with Clarion for the KSAC title two weeks ago. Undefeated Blairsville then topped the Bulldogs last Friday in a game that some of Redbank Valley’s starters were removed from by halftime. That won’t be the case in a winner-take all situation this Friday.

“It was an all-around bad week last week. I’ve never really coached a game like that, where you’re more worried about not getting anyone hurt,” Redbank Valley coach Ed Wasilowski said. “A win wouldn’t have made any difference to us for the playoffs. Hopefully, the kids understood the situation that we had to be ready for this game.”

Brockway (5-5) comes into the postseason as the third-place team from the Allegheny Mountain League by virtue of winning a three-team tiebreaker with No. 6 Kane and No. 7 Curwensville.

The Rovers have lost five of their last six, but the team is 3-0 against Redbank Valley in playoff games with wins in 2011, 2005 and 1998 — Brockway’s first year after leaving the KSAC.

“I’d say anybody who’s around right now in the playoffs is a good team,” Brockway coach Frank Zocco said. “We’re still very confident. You have to be, otherwise you might as well not show up.”

The Bulldogs offense has ridden the arm of senior quarterback Jake Dougherty, who threw for career highs of 2,151 yards and 31 touchdowns in his team’s nine-game regular season. Dougherty has 5,693 career passing yards, which places him sixth on the District 9 all-time list, 395 yards outside the top five.

The Rovers utilize the ground game more frequently, led by senior Anthony Benson, who has 624 rushing yards, 373 receiving yards and 14 combined touchdowns.

“Anthony Benson is their kid, and they have two nice kids at fullback. They run a lot of misdirection with them,” Wasilowski said. “They’re balanced, though, and have a good wide receiver, (junior) Anthony Isabella.”

Redbank Valley will be without a pair of starters due to injury. Center Scott Toth and safety Devin Schimp will miss the game. Wasilowski hopes to have both players back soon.

It will be the second consecutive year Redbank Valley has opened the playoffs at home with a quarterfinal against the AML third-place team. The Bulldogs topped Ridgway, 31-26, in last year’s playoff opener.

“It’s always better to play at home, even though we’ve had some success on the road this year,” Wasilowski said. “The routine stays the same, you don’t have to sit on the bus, and you have your own fans there.”

Brockway doesn’t have the luxury of being at home, but the Rovers hope that won’t prevent them from winning a playoff game for the sixth consecutive year.

“We’re trying to stay in our same routine, but it is the playoffs. If you don’t feel the intensity now, you’re never going to,” Zocco said.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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