The football will fly Saturday afternoon at Brockway High School during the District 9 Class A semifinal between Redbank Valley and Port Allegany.
Redbank Valley coach Frank Fabian just hopes the ball lands in his players’ hands more often than not.
The No. 2 seed Bulldogs (6-5) and No. 6 seed Gators (6-4) share an affinity for the pass-centric spread offense. Possibly as a result, each team finished the regular season with the most points in its division — Redbank Valley had a Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference Small School-best 236, and Port Allegany led the Allegheny Mountain League North division with 289 points.
In its first-round win over Kane last week, Redbank Valley intentionally took a conservative approach on offense and prevailed, 15-0. Fabian wanted to ease a few new starters into their roles and protect a few banged-up players from further punishment.
Playing safe and slow will not be an option this week, though, Fabian said.
“If you look at Port, the one thing they’ve done all year long is score points,” he said. “I think you’re gonna have to put some points on the board to keep up with them because they’re very talented offensively.”
Port Allegany quarterback Matt Bodamer, though only a sophomore, surpassed the 3,000-yard mark for career passing last week during the Gators’ 47-40, four-overtime win over Elk County Catholic. He completed 11 of 19 pass attempts for 166 yards and one touchdown in the game and also ran for a score.
“We’ve talked about changing things up because we can’t let him get comfortable,” Fabian said. “We’d like to bring pressure at times, but then back off and drop into zone. One thing we gotta do is keep him in the pocket. … When he gets out of the pocket, and he becomes that run-pass option, that’s when he seems to be most dangerous.”
Brandon Bain knows a thing or two about being a dual-threat quarterback, too. The Bulldogs’ senior signal-caller has passed for 1,240 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, and he has gained 430 yards rushing.
Fabian wants the boys surrounding Bain to “bring the wood” more often this week. He praised how physical the Bulldogs played on defense last week, and he said the offense needs to embrace that approach.
Senior fullback/linebacker Caleb Delp, one of Redbank Valley’s most punishing players, continues to deal with an injured hamstring. Delp, the team’s leading rusher and tackler, only played defense last week, and Fabian said the senior’s status still is uncertain for this Saturday.
A win will put Redbank Valley in a District 9 championship game for the first time since 2004, when the Bulldogs advanced through the Class AA tournament and lost to Brookville in the finals. It also will further embolden a group of Bulldogs who were considered non-contenders during the ’10 preseason because of low participation numbers and few returning starters.
“All season long, these young men have proven people wrong,” Fabian said. “They’ve kind of had a chip on their shoulder and played that way.”
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