Redbank Valley, Karns City prep for showdown
For a contest in early October, tonight’s District 9 clash between Karns City and Redbank Valley won’t be short on playoff atmosphere.
Both will take the field with 5-0 records, but Redbank Valley may benefit most from a win. Karns City is the reigning Keystone Athletic Shortway Conference champion and handed Redbank Valley its only league loss last season. The Gremlins, who also took the District 9 Class AA title in 2007, have won a conference-record 25 KSAC games in a row.
Just don’t try to tell first-year Redbank Valley coach Brandon Rapp that it’s a big game.
“We’re treating it just like any game,” Rapp said. “Obviously, that stuff is in the back of your mind, but I think we have a chance.”
If tonight is like any other night for the Bulldogs, the matchup could be an elongated and suspenseful one. Redbank Valley’s past two games have come down to overtime, with last week’s triple-overtime thriller tying a record for the longest game in District 9 history. But Rapp believes the close wins have shown him more about his team than any of its three previous blowout wins.
“We told our kids two weeks ago and last week, that the fight in them is unbelievable,” Rapp said. “They’ll never quit. I’ll take that over talent any day.”
If anything, Karns City coach Ed Conto may welcome adversity. The Gremlins have yet to be challenged this season, winning all of its games by an average of 41 points. As a result, many of the team’s starters haven’t played much beyond the first half.
“We need to play some whole games,” Conto said. “I’d like to see my offense and defense play a whole game and see how they react to that.”
With both rosters featuring some of the conference’s top players, Conto may get his wish.
Redbank Valley features senior running back Alex Bladel, who has rushed for 639 yards this season and is 120 yards short of 3,000 for his career. But despite his wild success against other conference foes, Karns City was able to hold Bladel to 85 yards last season, with 42 of those yards coming on his first carry.
“When we’ve played him, he hasn’t has much success on us,” Conto said.
Leading Karns City is quarterback Anthony Stimac, who was named the KSAC Player of the Week following his five-touchdown performance against Clarion last week. After Stimac, who Rapp calls “one of the best atheltes in the league,” the coach has a hard time finding another impact player.
“Nobody really sticks out, but I mean that as a compliment,” Rapp said. “They have a ton of athletes that can do a ton of damage. They’re very deep at a lot of positions.”
With Karns City currentlly third in the district when it comes to total offense (381.8 yards per game), Conto has no problem with his players flying under the radar.
“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Conto said. “We need to play good defense first, then play good special teams, because field position is so important in a big game.”