Young runs over Bulldogs; Chucks win 12-8

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Kaleb Young rushed for 252 yards, and Punxsy's defense held Redbank Valley scoreless until the last minute of the game to lead the Chucks to a 12-8 win and a 5-0 record for the season.

Because it was raining throughout the evening, Punxsy's hand was forced when it came to running the ball, but it became obvious early that a heavy dose of Young would be difficult for Redbank's defense to handle.

"The field conditions dictated us running the ball with the wet ball and poor footing," Punxsy head coach Jason Grusky said. "Our quarterback had a rough time getting the ball off and even setting his feet. That meant we had to run more, but Kaleb had some great runs early, and that also dictated us also coming back to him."

On Punxsy's first drive — after the Chucks' defense forced a four-and-out when Young made a nice play to keep Redbank Valley from converting on fourth down — Young carried the ball seven times, including the first four plays.

Young started with a 21-yard scamper to push the Chucks into Redbank territory, and after three runs of seven, three and nine yards, Punxsy threw its first pass — a completion from quarterback Ryan Jones to Nathan Ray.

Young ran two more times, but Redbank's defense allowed him only four yards between the two carries, and on the next play, the Chucks ran a reverse, with Young handing the ball to Braxton Giavedoni.

Giavedoni fought for the first down but came up one yard shy of the sticks. Redbank Valley's defense stopped Young on a fourth-and-short to force a turnover on downs inside the 10-yard line with just seven seconds left in the first quarter.

Redbank Valley failed to earn a first down on its second drive, as well, and the Bulldogs were forced to punt.

On the second play of the drive, Young broke free around the end and ran 57 yards to the 11-yard line, and after a Punxsy pass fell incomplete, Young ran a sweep and rolled through a pair of Bulldog defenders for the touchdown.

The ball was fumbled on the two-point conversion attempt, and Jones fell on it, keeping the score at 6-0.

Redbank Valley was able to gain some momentum on its third drive, which started at their own 40-yard line after a nice return by Tanner Altobelli.

It looked like another three-and-out when Altobelli tried to run it up the middle but was hit in the backfield by Seth Kerr. On second down, Altobelli couldn't handle the option pitch from quarterback Conner Shoemaker and had to cover it for a four-yard loss.

But on third down, Shoemaker connected with Altobelli on a screen pass for 13 yards to set up fourth-and-short. Shoemaker ran the ball right up the middle after the snap and gained 10 yards to move the chains for the Bulldogs.

After two short runs and a pair of incomplete passes, though, the ball was turned over on downs and the shutout remained intact.

"Our defense has been steady all year," Grusky said. "We've given up very few points. We're not doing anything fancy. It's just our base-11 defense, and we aren't even blitzing guys. Our guys are just playing sound, fundamental defense."

Punxsy had 2:16 to score and orchestrate a nice drive, but the Chucks came up just short when the clock expired as Giavedoni was tripped up inside the Bulldogs' five-yard line.

The second half started with a 12-play, 45-yard drive by the Chucks that ate up more than seven minutes on the clock, but the Bulldogs' defense buckled down again to turn the ball over on downs and keep the game within one score.

After an incomplete pass, though, the Chucks defense stepped up and made two big plays when Larry Yeager brought Altobelli down in the backfield for a five-yard loss, and the Chucks forced Shoemaker to fumble and dive on top of the ball. The Bulldogs had to punt the ball away on the first play of the fourth quarter.

After a nice return by Giavedoni, the Chucks were in excellent field position at the Bulldogs' 33, but on the second play of the drive, the snap was fumbled, and Redbank's defense pounced on it.

After another three-and-out by Punxsy's defense, it appeared the Bulldogs were going to punt, but Altobelli took the snap and tried to run for a first down.

Punxsy's Alex Young caught Altobelli at the line of scrimmage, though, and the Chucks' regained their field position.

Five plays later, Kaleb Young finished off his impressive day with a five-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-two.

"Kaleb keeps amazing us more every week," Grusky said. "You go with the hot hand, and he had it tonight. He had that 57-yarder in the first half and a few 20-something yarders in the game. Two-hundred-and-fifty-two yards overall; that's almost unheard of at this level."

Punxsy failed to convert on the two-point conversion, though, and the score held at 12-0.

Redbank Valley had only 1:29 left on the clock to come back, but the Bulldogs certainly made it interesting when Shoemaker hit Altobelli on a screen pass, and he reversed field and ran 54 yards for a touchdown with just 34 seconds left.

Punxsy recovered the attempted onside kick, though, and kneeled on the ball twice to seal the win.

Grusky saw a few things his team could work on improving before next week's game at Keystone in Knox, but overall, he was pleased with his team's performance.

"We missed a few blocks and some opportunities, but we played a tough team," he said. "We didn't know until after the game they were undefeated, too. So we just beat an undefeated team, and that's something to be proud of."