By Brad Rapp
With high hopes heading into the 2021 campaign, head coach Brad Dittman’s Union/A-C Valley Falcon-Knights find themselves looking to build upon their 5-1 start.
In fact for the Falcon-Knights you could say it was not such a good start. The Falcon-Knights opened the season with a 28-20 loss at Brockway. A game the Falcon-Knights would like to probably play over, but also a game in which they learned a lot about who they are as a football team. Since the loss the Falcon-Knights have employed a back to work mentality.
Since week one the Falcon-Knights have only yielded thrity-two points in five games and is a good reason the Falcon-Knights find themselves back on track. Defensive coach Chris McNany likes the way his defense has responded from the opening season loss. Since week one, the Falcon-Knights held Sheffield, Otto Eldred and Elk County Catholic scoreless winning by scores of 77-0, 42-0 and 41-0 against Elk County which was called at halftime due to injuries for Elk County. “We pride ourselves in being fast and physical. We like to take the ball away, we like to score on defense.” The Falcon Knights primarily run a 3-4 defense which gives the linebackers the ability to make plays.
McNany likes the senior leadership of his defense which include, 6-2”Carter Terwint at middle line backer, 5-8 Caden Rainey who McNany calls “an extension of the coaching staff on the field.
At the core of Falcon-Knigth 3-4 is Sr. nose guard, Colton Murray. “Murray eats up double teams most of the time. Colton has been in the system four years now and understands the system well. He has a tough job with little glory,” stated McNany.
A quick look at the stat sheet through five games shows a nice contribution at all levels. (Mikey Card, 29 tackles, 23 solo) (Terwint, 27), (Landon Chalmers, 21), Dawson Camper (20), Ryan Cooper (17), Caden Raney (17). Skylar Roxbury leads the Falcon-Knights with 6 picks through six games.
The Falcon-Knights found themselves down at halftime to Port Allegany 8-6 but bounced back in the 2nd half on homecoming night to come away with a solid win 41-8.
On the offensive side of the ball Coach Dittman’’s squad has out scored their opponents by a score of 227-32 since week one but will be tested a little more as the season moves forward.
Offensively the Falcon-Knights are led by an all underclass backfield; QB, jr.,Bailey Crissman (33-82-431 yds, 4td’s passing and 2 rushing TD’s), jr., RB, Mikey Card (517 yds., 4 TD’s) and So., RB, Dawson Camper, (354 yds, 8 TD’s on the ground and 3 TD’s through the air).
A big test for the Falcon-Knights was last Thursday’s contest at Keystone in which they showed poise and a little bit of resiliency.
Sometimes it is not how you start but how you finish. Call it a tale of two half’s if you will. The Keystone Panthers pounced early and often as Kyle Nellis erupted for an opening 80 yard kickoff return and the Falcon-Knights found themselves in a hole early 6-0.
It was in fact Nellis who was the difference maker in the first half. Defensively, Nellis picked off a Bailey Crissman pass and scampered 47 yards to quickly put Keystone in the driver’s seat 12-0. Nellis also had a hand in a fumble recovery in the first half.
Give much credit to the Keystone defense as miscues hampered the Falcon-Knight comeback in the first half as the Keystone defense forced four turnovers. Throw in a blocked punt in which set up the Panthers offense at the one yard line and it looked like the Panthers were in full control. Keystone quarterback Bret Wingard quickly crossed the end-zone on a one yard plunge to extend their lead to 18- early in the 2nd quarter.
Offensively the Falcon-Knights struggled to find a rhythm as a series of fumbles thwarted any offensive comeback.
It was not until late in the 2nd quarter the Falcon Knights got things moving. In a play that showed effort on both ends, Union/A-C Valley’s Crissman shrugged off a tackler avoiding a near sack as he found Skyler Roxbury in an acrobatic catch at the Keystone 35 yd. line. Dawson Camper jaunted seven yards on the next play and Mikey Card took the ball to the Keystone 24. A-C Valley Coach Brad Dittman called timeout at the 1:28 mark. Crissman moved the ball on the next play with a run. A big third down play on 3rd and 5 found Crissman hitting Mikey Card as Card advanced to the 2 yard line with 45 seconds left in the half. Crissman suffered an injury on the play and Dittman brought in sophomore Trey Fleming at quarterback. Fleming found Ryan Cooper on a 2 yard slant as the Falcon-Knights found a bit of hope going into the 2nd half only down 18-6.
Defensively, the Falcon-Knights held Keystone to 72 total yards on offense in the first half which gave Union/A-C Valley hope.
If Keystone owned the first half, Union/A-C Valley owned the 2nd as multiple players found the end zone as the Union/A-C Valley Falcon Knights scored 26 unanswered points in multiple fashions. In the 3rd quarter of play, Crissman found Caden Rainey on a 53 yard explosive screen reception across and through the middle of the Keystone defense to close the gap 18-12. Union/A-C Valley capitalized the two point conversion on a pass from Crissman to Ryan Cooper making it a one possession game at 18-14.
Union/A-C Valley drove deep into Keystone territory to the 7yard line but the Keystone defense turned the Falcon-Knights away as they failed to convert on a fourth down and turned the ball over to the Panthers.
Union/A-C Valley’s defense turned in a staunch performance only giving up a few big plays which allotted for most of the Keystone yardage. With 8 minutes left in the contest Skylar Roxbury for the Falcon-Knights picked off a Bret Wingard pass to the end zone as the Falcon-Knights enjoyed their first lead at 20-14. Keystone turned the ball over on downs on the next series and the Falcon-Knights wasted little time as Mikey Card hit pay dirt to extend the Union/A-C Valley lead 26-18.
As quick as the Falcon-Knights enjoyed their eight point lead, it diminished just as fast. Keystone’s Bret Wingard hit Tyler Albright down the right sideline for an 80 yard td reception. Keystone looked to try and confuse the Falcon-Knight defense as they lined up in a wild cat formation on the ensuing two point conversion. Union/A-C Valley stopped Keystone’s 4th two point attempt of the night keeping the Falcon-Knights on top at 26-24.
Keystone intercepted a Crissman pass on 3rd down with about three minutes left in the contest but a pass inference call negated the play and Union/A-C Valley was set with a new series of downs which pretty much sealed the contest.
Union/A-C Valley was lead in rushing by Mikey Card with 14 carries for 97 yards. Crissman connected on 9 of 22 for 154 yards passing. Skyler Roxbury who made a pivotal catch at the end of the first half, hauled in 4 receptions for 68 yards and an interception for a touchdown.
Ahead on the schedule the Falcon-Knights will travel to Cameron County (5-1), and host Redbank (6-1) and a stout Coudersport team at home.
Come on out and show your support.