Garry Black is constructing one thing particular at Northern Bedford.
The Black Panthers misplaced within the District 5 Class 1A title recreation in 2019, gained it final season, repeated this 12 months and adopted that efficiency with their first state playoff victory since 1995 on Friday.
“It’s a giant win for our program,” Black stated. “You see the highest groups within the space and the state, and also you wish to put your program up there. Profitable these state playoff video games is admittedly large for our program. It’s placing us the place we wish to be.”
Northern Bedford will get an opportunity to go even deeper into the state playoffs this Friday when it travels to Clarion College to tackle the crew it misplaced to in final 12 months’s PIAA first spherical, Redbank Valley. Kickoff is ready for 7 p.m.
“Final 12 months, that was our first PIAA win,” Redbank Valley coach Blane Gold stated. “I keep in mind they have been going for his or her first in a very long time, and clearly this 12 months they’re coming off a win over a crew that knocked us out final 12 months (Reynolds). There are similarities.”
The similarities don’t cease there.
Each groups handled adversity early within the season.
Northern Bedford needed to take care of a brutal early schedule that included Heritage Convention champion Cambria Heights, WestPAC winner Windber and Class 2A energy Bellwood-Antis whereas changing almost all of its talent gamers from a season in the past.
“These children matured rapidly,” Black stated. “We now have a sophomore at quarterback, a sophomore at operating again, a sophomore at fullback and (Aaron) Bowers has been our main receiver, and he’s a freshman. The beginning was so tough, as a result of you’ve got all these younger guys making an attempt to study to play varsity soccer on the similar time, and also you’re enjoying excellent soccer groups.
“After we obtained by way of that, it pressured the youngsters to develop up rapidly. They’ve performed with plenty of confidence, and I don’t suppose any of them are enjoying like sophomores and freshmen. They’re enjoying like skilled veterans.”
Black additionally switched Bowers, a defensive finish in junior excessive, to security the fourth week of the season. He’s responded with a team-leading six interceptions and helped lead the Black Panthers to victory over Reynolds with a decide and 4 catches for 129 yards and two scores.
“It meant quite a bit to me to offer the seniors an opportunity to maintain enjoying,” Bowers stated. “Our passing recreation has actually developed because the season went on, and that’s helped our operating recreation.”
The youthful gamers have been in a position to develop because of an skilled group of linemen in entrance of them.
“Once you’re working behind some guys who’ve been starters for 3 or 4 years, that makes you’re feeling much more snug,” Black stated. “After we obtained into convention play and began enjoying some 1A colleges, we have been actually in a position to set up the road of scrimmage and get issues rotated. That allowed the folks in our talent positions to develop into the gamers we would have liked them to be.”
However Friday, Northern Bedford’s line shall be put to the take a look at towards one other robust unit.
“We felt actually good about that group coming again,” Gold stated. “We had three full-time starters coming again and our left deal with this 12 months, who was mainly our sixth man final 12 months. We had 4 guys with plenty of expertise coming again. Kolby Barrett, he was a first-team all-conference performer and has began each recreation for us on the offensive line apart from one. He’s been right here 43 video games and began 42 at left guard. To have that consistency is a giant deal. Kade Minnick, our proper guard, has began about 26 video games and Carsen Rupp has been a rock for us at middle.”
Regardless of that have and excessive expectations getting into this season, Redbank Valley misplaced its opener.
“It’s been an fascinating 12 months for us, as a result of expectations have been by way of the roof,” Gold stated. “We began the 12 months ranked fourth or fifth within the state, which I believed was slightly too excessive. We got here out too assured and obtained smacked within the mouth that first recreation towards a crew that wasn’t seeded extremely within the playoffs and misplaced their first-round recreation. It was a humbling expertise that any crew may beat us, and it saved us hungry and motivated. The fellows have actually battled again.”
A part of that early-season hiccup needed to do with an damage to a key participant.
“Our operating again (Ray Shreckengost III) tore his hamstring throughout camp,” Gold stated. “We struggled operating the ball the primary 5 video games, however now that he’s wholesome, we’ve got actually come collectively.”
Gold stated he’s impressed with how properly Northern Bedford has changed gifted gamers like Thad Leidy, Dalton Smith and Cadin Ebersole.
“They’ve completed an excellent job changing all that athleticism that they had final 12 months with younger guys and never lacking a beat,” Gold stated. “Their quarterback is a sophomore, and he appeared good, particularly connecting with (Bowers) on Friday night time towards Reynolds. (Johnson) seems to be actually good operating the soccer too.”
Redbank Valley gained final 12 months’s recreation, 28-15, however led 21-0 early.
“We didn’t get off to a really robust begin,” Black stated. “We have been in a position to power them to punt instantly, however on our first drive we fumbled the ball away and couldn’t get issues going whereas they made some performs.”
The Bulldogs even have some totally different gamers this 12 months, together with quarterback Bryson Bain.
“Our quarterback went over 2,000 yards Friday, and that is his first 12 months enjoying soccer,” Gold stated. “He by no means performed the sport earlier than this 12 months. He changed a three-year starter, and in that first recreation, he threw two pick-6s. To see how far he’s come 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns later, it’s actually one thing particular to see. The entire crew has grown and used that first-game failure as motivation.”
Black has his personal story of redemption at quarterback. Starter Eion Snider was sharing snaps with Kain Baker early within the season, and the Black Panthers have been averaging lower than 50 yards passing a recreation earlier than one thing clicked for Snider not too long ago.
He’s appeared like a distinct participant because the halfway level of the season and even had a distinct quantity than his regular No. 14 when he wore No. 8 Friday after his uniform didn’t make the three-hour journey to Greenville.
The quantity change was simply short-term, however Black is hoping the advance continues.
“No. 8 belongs to a different man on our crew,” Black stated. “However for Eion, there was simply one thing that clicked halfway by way of the season. I don’t know precisely what it was. Our first 7-on-7 that we did in June at Hollidaysburg, and we simply appeared actually unhealthy offensively. To get to the place we’re at now could be wonderful. Eion has been placing the ball proper on the cash. He has been excellent for us. I’m excited to proceed to observe him develop as a participant.”
PIAA Class 1A quarterfinals
Groups: Northern Bedford (9-3) vs. Redbank Valley (10-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Clarion College
Coaches: Northern Bedford–Garry Black; Redbank Valley–Blane Gold
Final assembly: Redbank Valley, 28-15, in 2020
Subsequent week: The winner will play the winner of the WPIAL championship recreation between Our Girl of the Sacred Coronary heart and Bishop Canevin within the PIAA semifinals.
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