PUNXSUTAWNEY — Redbank Valley scored six first-half touchdowns and held the Chucks scoreless in the first half en route to a 42-12 victory on Punxsy's Senior Night Friday in Punxsy.
"The thing is, we knew Redbank Valley had a lot of speed, but knowing it and containing it are two different things," Punxsy head coach Alan Nichol said. "The past two weeks have been a bit disjointed for us with injuries and moving guys around. You have to be improving this time of year, and we haven't been able to do that."
Although the Chucks weren't able to pull off a victory to honor their seniors, Nichol did want to point out how proud he is of his senior core, consisting of Alex Fedigan, Luke Janocha, Josh Neal, Hayden Muth, Matt Rowland, Jacob Shiock, Jonathan Smeal and Tyler Titus.
"I'm very proud of this group of seniors," Nichol said. "Our numbers have affected us all year, but you have to come out there and keep playing, and these guys do. They come out as leaders and men that we know won't let us down, and I can't say enough about that."
After a pre-game ceremony honored both the senior football players and the senior cheerleaders, the Chucks opened the game with possession of the ball, but after two short runs by Fedigan and an incomplete pass, Punxsy had to punt the ball away to Redbank.
Things looked bright for the defense on the second play of the drive when Neal stripped a Redbank runner of the football, but the Bulldogs recovered the ball, and two plays later, they converted on a fourth-and-one.
On the next play, freshman quarterback Jake Dougherty hooked up with Keaton Delp for a 26-yard pass after faking a wide receiver screen.
Punxsy's defense bit just enough on the pump fake to free Delp for the touchdown reception.
Zane Watson added the extra point to give Redbank a 7-0 lead four minutes into the game.
Punxsy's next drive looked promising when it started at its own 26-yard line and drove to the Bulldogs' 30, highlighted by an 18-yard pass from Punxsy quarterback Garrett Zimmerman to Janocha and a 12-yard run by fullback Jamie Bush.
Punxsy's drive stalled there, though, when Zimmerman was stopped just short of the sticks on a fourth-and-five, turning the ball over on downs.
Redbank drove 80 yards on five plays for its second consecutive score, highlighted by a 32-yard pass from Dougherty to Caleb Smith and capped by a 35-yarder to sophomore fullback Mark Strothers to push the Redbank lead to 14.
Punxsy started at its own 27 on the ensuing drive and picked up a big first down on a 24-yard connection from Zimmerman to Janocha but turned the ball over on downs four plays later on an incomplete pass.
Redbank wasted no time marching 61 yards this time and finishing off a five-play drive with a 14-yard touchdown run by Kyle Lee.
After a two-point conversion, the Bulldogs led 22-0.
Punxsy was forced to punt after a three-and-out and seemed to receive the shift in momentum when Hayden Muth intercepted a Dougherty pass on second-and-long, but after a five-yard run by Fedigan, Punxsy fumbled the ball back to the Bulldogs when Bush appeared to lose his forward progress but no whistle was blown.
Redbank's field was only 47 yards after the turnover, and on the sixth play of the drive, the Bulldogs cashed in on a 33-yard touchdown to extend their lead to 29 with five minutes remaining in the half.
Punxsy's passing game found its legs on the next drive, picking up a pair of first downs on receptions of 17 yards and 15 yards by Neal and Clayton Dale, respectively, but three straight incompletions as the rain started to fall harder, and a sack by Redbank's Braden Bowser turned the ball over again.
The Bulldogs started right at mid-field, looking to run some time off the clock, but on the second play of the drive, Delp busted outside for a 42-yard touchdown run to move the lead to 36 after the extra point. With that score, the running-clock rule took effect.
Punxsy punted the ball away on its next possession, and with 1:46 left in the half, Strothers took the wind out of the Chucks' sails with a first-down 59-yard scamper for a touchdown, setting the lead at 42.
Punxsy ran three plays on the ensuing drive to run out the clock and headed into halftime at a large disadvantage.
Trailing by such a large margin, Nichol knew his team had to come out and respond, and the Chucks did just that, scoring on their first two drives in the second half.
"They played with a lot of heart," he said. "It's not easy, and we aren't easy on ourselves. This game's about accountability, and we have to keep coming back and putting our heart and soul into it. Doing so says a lot about these guys."
The Chucks also held Redbank Valley scoreless in the second half, and Nichol attributed a large part of Punxsy's second half performance to his senior leadership.
"It's always easy when things go your way, but when they don't go your way, but when they aren't going your way, you find out what kind of character you have," he said. "The way we ap- proached the second half was certainly a feather in the older guys' caps."
After the defense forced a Redbank Valley punt, Punxsy marched 88 yards on 13 plays, and Fedigan finished the drive off with a pair of seven-yard runs.
Punxsy missed the extra point, but the lead was cut to 42-6.
After another defensive stand, highlighted by a Zach Minich sack for the Chucks, Punxsy put together a five-play, 66-yard drive, aided by a pass interference penalty on the Bulldogs.
Zimmerman connected with Janocha for a 15-yard touchdown pass to finish off the drive. A failed two-point conversion kept the score at 42-12.
The Chucks had one more crack at a score with just over five minutes left, but after a turnover on downs, the Bulldogs ran out the clock and secured the win.
"We're trying to build a program, and we kind of got ahead of the curve with a couple wins the past few years," Nichol said. "When you have small groups in the upper grades, you'll take some lumps, but I'll tell you, there's no group of guys I'd rather take them with than this group."
Punxsy (2-6) travels to rival Brookville next week for the Route 36 rivalry.
"Bottom line is, we believe in our hearts we'll get healthy this week," Nichol said. "We've been missing some of that with the injury bug, but it appears we came out of this one pretty much unscathed. There's always a big game next week, so we're hoping to practice and prepare better and make it happen."