Strothers helps Redbank Valley edge Ridgway
Mark Strothers has been a big-play back for Redbank Valley all season, but when it mattered most, he showed he can get the tough yards, too.
Strothers ran for 152 yards and touchdowns of 3, 54 and 19 yards on a season-high 24 carries to lead the No. 3 Bulldogs over No. 6 Ridgway, 31-26, in the District 9, Class A quarterfinals Friday in New Bethlehem.
Redbank Valley (7-3), which earned its first playoff win since 2010, advances to face No. 2 Curwensville in the semifinals next week at a time and location to be determined.
Strothers, a senior, reached a pair of milestones. He surpassed 1,000 yards for the season on his third carry, an 8-yard run, and his three rushing touchdowns give him a school-record 21 this season. But it was the tough yards he was able to get late in the game that made the difference.
Redbank got the ball at its own 23 with and 28-26 lead and 6:34 remaining in the game. The Bulldogs then put together a 13-play drive — including six carries by Strothers — that ended with a 35-yard Zane Watson field goal with 39 seconds to play.
“That was a big drive. We had some penalties that put us behind the sticks, but we ground it out,” Redbank Valley coach Ed Wasilowski said. “I would've liked if we could've taken it in (for a touchdown) there. If they would've won it after that, more power to them, because they had to go the length of the field with no timeouts and less than a minute.”
Ridgway (5-6) returned the kickoff to its 36, but on the Elkers' first play, Ridgway quarterback Ben MacDonald had his pass tipped by Devin Schimp and intercepted by Nick Shoemaker to seal the win.
“Give a lot of credit to Redbank Valley. They're going to represent District 9 well in the semifinals, and whoever they play is going to have their hands full,” Ridgway coach Mark Heindl said. “We were able to get back in it, but we couldn't get that stop we needed with enough time left.”
Apart from the final interception, MacDonald had a strong game for the Elkers. The junior quarterback completed 12 of 19 passes for 202 yards and a score, and he also ran for two touchdowns.
“We knew on defense that we were going to have our hands full, because they have some great athletes,” Wasilowski said. “They ran the ball better than I thought they would first half, so we made some adjustments to stop that, but then they started throwing it on us.”
Redbank Valley never trailed in the game after a 55-yard Mitch Blose return of the opening kickoff helped to set Strothers up for a 3-yard touchdown run. Though the Elkers answered with a 3-yard scoring run by MacDonald, the extra point was blocked to keep the Bulldogs ahead.
The Bulldogs led at halftime, 21-12, after a 20-yard scoring pass from Jake Dougherty to Kyle Schrecengost. Ridgway cut the lead to 21-18, but Redbank Valley handed the ball to Strothers on seven of its next eight plays, including a 19-yard scoring run to cap the drive.
“I'm proud of our kids,” Wasilowski said. “They controlled the ball too much on us ... but luckily, we escaped. We can enjoy this one for a little while and then come back tomorrow to get to work on Curwensville.”