ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — Thursday’s Class A football championship pits teams with very different histories.
Redbank Valley is heading to Hershey for the first time and is the first District 9 team to play for a title in nearly 30 years. For Bishop Guilfoyle, it’s a “business trip” as one player said. The Marauders are heading to Hershey for the fifth time in eight years, playing for a title most recently in 2019.
“I remember the last field goal. And how awful it was to lose that game,” senior wide receiver Vincent Cioffari remembers.
In that 2019 loss, an overtime field goal was the difference in a 10-7 loss to Farrell.
“The wind, it was hard to kick a field goal,” Cioffari said. “They kicked it, I thought it was a pretty lucky field goal, but, they won, they played better.”
Two years later that loss still motivates Bishop Guilfoyle. But it’s not the only one.
“Losing week two was a pretty bad feeling,” said senior linemen Colin Butler. “I think a lot of us were down.”
That week Penn Cambria went on the road and upset BG 27-14. The Marauders began the year 1-2. It was a slow start that cemented an underdog mentality.
“The guys come into the season and we said they may not know your names now, but our goal is they know it at the end of the season,” said head coach Justin Wheeler. “So hang tough, fight through the early games and trust the process.”
Truthfully, it’s hard to be an underdog when you’re BG and had four title game appearances in the seven previous seasons. But after replacing 19 starters and losing their best player to a preseason injury, many thought the team was going through a rebuild. Even the players felt it.
“We knew, or all thought it wasn’t going to be good. Then we just kept winning games in the playoffs, and it’s insane,” Butler said.
Growth was key for the Marauders throughout the year, and when the lights shined the brightest, the team played its best, coming back from a double-digit deficit to beat Juniata Valley in the district championship, and beating undefeated Canton in the semifinals behind a Karson Kiesewetter three-touchdown performance.
BG’s playoff run is chock full of great wins, but it’s still a run motivated by defeat.
“Our failures help build us better,” Cioffari said. “That’s why we’re such a good team I think.”
“I think that’s exactly where you want to be as a program,” added Wheeler. “We’ve watched some of those games and some of those clips. We’ve put together some of those things for our guys on media and sent it to them and said here’s some of the things we’ve been to and haven’t finished. I think it’s important to learn from your mistakes and know where you’ve been from.”
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