Red-Hot Punxsutawney Football Team Welcomes Redbank Valley to Town for Latest Test


PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The Redbank Valley defense was tested last week against Karns City.

(Above photo by Maisie Eberhart.)

It passed thanks to some key stops deep inside its own territory in a 25-15 win.

There’s another exam looming on Friday night on the road against a Punxsutawney team with its confidence soaring after its first 2-0 start in 12 years.

“We keep stressing, we keep telling our guys probably every 15 minutes of practice, that this isn’t the same Punxsutawney team that we played in 2019 and last year,” Gold said. “This is a much-improved team. They’ve hit the ground running this year. They’re a very good football team and they are scoring a lot of points. Defensively, they don’t give up much.”

Punxsutawney Area High School sports coverage on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.

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Redbank Valley (2-0) beat Punxsutawney, 40-14, last season and 54-14 in 2019.

But these aren’t the same Chucks.

A 56-0 win over Bradford followed by an impressive 37-16 road victory over Kane has helped Punxsutawney already match its win total from last season.

A deep and physical front on both sides of the ball has been a big reason for the resurgence. So has the play of Zeke Bennett at running back.

The senior has already gained 388 yards on the ground and scored seven touchdowns.

“(Bennett) scares the heck out of me,” Gold said.

Senior quarterback Seth Moore and junior wide receiver Noah Weaver have also instilled some fear into Chucks’ opponents this season.

It’s become a dynamic offense geared around the run.

That’s something that has concerned Gold this year — playing teams with mauling offensive lines that can grind out yardage in the running game.

Redbank Valley needed two goal-line stands and an interception return for a touchdown last week to help beat Karns City.

The Gremlins, though, were able to move the ball well on the ground most of the night, compiling 276 rushing yards from a host of backs, led by Luke Cramer’s 102 yards.

“We were able to take away a lot of stuff from the game on Friday because we gave up a good chunk of yardage to Karns City,” Gold said. “We were able to make some adjustments and change some personnel in certain areas to hopefully tighten up some of those weak areas.

“(Punxsutawney) is without a doubt going to test us again,” Gold added. “When you look at our schedule, there are going to be a lot of teams that test us with that, so we have to make sure we get better between the tackles.”

The Bulldogs’ defense was buoyed by the return of linebacker Caden Adams, who missed Week 1 due to illness. He was back against Karns City and made a team-high 16 tackles, three for a loss.

Ashton Kahle also returned an interception for a touchdown.

“We believe if we give up less than 17 points, we’re in position to win,” Gold said. “Even though we had our backs up against the wall at times, we stayed under that number.”

Keeping Redbank Valley under 17 points has long been a problem because of the weapons the Bulldogs can employ.

“On film, they look like they aren’t missing a beat at all,” said Punxsutawney coach Alan Nichol. “It’s gonna be a big challenge, of course. We have to deal with that speed and physicality. That’s a whole new look we’re going to have to be ready for because Redbank’s speed is fantastic.”

Nichol has his team playing well after years of adversity.

Punxsutawney had won just five games in the last four years before the 2-0 start to this campaign. The last time the Chucks made the playoffs was in 2017. The last time they had a winning record was in 2014.

Nichol believes this team has the talent — and the mentality — to compete with anyone week in and week out.

“We have some weapons, too,” Nichol said. “Seth stepped up as a quarterback. He’s always been a quarterback and he put the time in during the summer. We moved Noah Weaver, who’s a fantastic athlete, out to receiver and he’s a threat out there. And Zach Presloid — it’s his first year playing football — he’s been playing well. This start will motivate us for some of the battles ahead, which is the next one against Redbank Valley.”

Punxsutawney Area High School sports coverage on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.
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