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Bisons buffaloed by Central Valley’s offense

Steven Ressler gets by Central Valley defender Jack Bible for a big gain Friday night in the PIAA 3A Semi Final at Mansion Park.

Central Valley coach Mark Lyons spent most of the past week worrying about trying to stop Bedford quarterback Mercury Swaim.

Imagine his distress when Swaim took the Bisons’ first play from scrimmage for what looked like it was going to be a 68-yard touchdown run.

But suddenly, everyone stopped. The triple option Bedford was running had fooled everyone — including the officials.

“I guess they blew an inadvertent whistle, because they didn’t know I had the ball,” Swaim said. “That really sucked, because you don’t get plays like that much against teams like (Central Valley). A play like that can really help, but when it got called back, it was really demoralizing.”

The Bisons did manage to pick up a pair of first downs following the play but ended up punting from the Central Valley 39-yard line. One play later, Akron commit Myles Walker ran 82 yards for a score to put the Warriors up by 14 in what turned out to be a 49-20 triumph over Bedford in the PIAA Class 3A semifinals at Mansion Park on Friday.

“The official blew the whistle when he wasn’t down,” Bedford coach Kevin Steele said. “It’s frustrating, because we run the option game, and we talked pregame with the officials about that. But they are human too. They make mistakes, and I don’t think that was the difference in the game. Central Valley has a really good football team, and they made more plays than we did. That’s why they won and we lost.”

Play of the game: With Bedford trailing just 14-6 after one quarter, Harvard commit Ameer Dudley connected with massive tight end Justin Thompson for a 40-yard gain on the first play of the second quarter. Four plays later, Jayvin Thompson scored from 3 yards out to make it 21-6. By halftime, Central Valley led 35-6.

Player of the game: Warriors running back Landon Alexander carried the ball 17 times and gained 159 yards, much of it after initial contact. He scored three touchdowns, including a 25-yard run in the third quarter that made it 42-6 and started the running clock — something Central Valley has activated in each of its 11 games.

Unsung hero: Though Central Valley’s nickname is the Warriors, Swaim may have been the player who best defined that title Friday night. Despite a defense designed specifically to stop him, he made plays throughout the night and finished with 232 yards passing with a pair of touchdown throws and also rushed for a touchdown.

Most vital statistic: Central Valley never punted and failed to score a touchdown on only two possessions, a one-play drive just before the half, and when it lost a fumble on a strip sack of Dudley late in the third quarter.

Wait. What?: Bedford had 19 first downs. Central Valley had 18. The turnovers were even at one, and Central Valley committed 11 penalties for 114 yards.

Central Valley’s Lyons: “It starts up front, and I thought our guys got after it up front. Sometimes when you play an option team, you have a tendency to sit flat-footed and try to play too much assignment football. We wanted to rush (Swaim’s) reads and take his space away, and I thought we did a good job with that.”

Steele: “They are awesome kids who worked their tails off. Dealing with all the stuff they dealt with over the last nine months, they should be patted on the back. They did an absolutely amazing job, and I’m proud to be their coach. I told them I wouldn’t rather be a coach of any other team in the state. They are unbelievable young men.”

Swaim: “I played with these guys since I was about 5. They just became my brothers, and we built an awesome brotherhood. We have all been working so hard since we were 5, and to go out like this is tough. We played a heck of a team. It’s awful to lose like this, but we can know we set Bedford history. We were hoping to go farther, but it just didn’t play out that way. I love every single one of my teammates, and we had a great season.

“Ten years from now, I’ll think back on this brotherhood, the wins and the trophies. I’ll remember my brothers who I got to be around every day. I went through this COVID stuff with them, and we had one heck of a season. I love them.”

Notable: Brandon Graham had an interception for Central Valley off a tipped pass. … Bedford managed just 23 yards on 33 carries after running for 30 yards on its first four carries. … Steven Ressler caught 11 passes for 95 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown catch with 23 seconds left in the third quarter. … Spencer Ebersole scored the other Bisons touchdown on a 57-yard bomb from Swaim that hit Ebersole in stride. … Central Valley played only one game that was closer than Friday’s final this season. It defeated New Castle, 49-21, on Sept. 25. … The teams both scored 14 points in the second half, and everyone kept their starters in the game. … Friday’s semifinal appearance was Bedford’s first in program history.

“It would have been very easy for our guys to come out in the second half and not battle,” Steele said. “That’s not the kind of kids we have in our program or how they operate. They fought tooth and nail until the end. We couldn’t get it done, but I’m really proud of their effort. They will look back on this and have great memories and lots of things to be proud of.”

Records: Central Valley (11-0); Bedford (10-1).

Next week: Central Valley will play the winner of today’s Wyomissing vs. Danville game in the PIAA Class 3A championship game on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at HersheyPark Stadium.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Central Valley 14 21 7 7 — 49

Bedford 6 0 14 0 — 20

First Quarter

CV–Dudley 3 run (Walmsley kick), 8:01.

CV–Walker 82 run (DeSantis kick), 5:23.

B–Swaim 8 run (kick failed), :06.

Second Quarter

CV–Thompson 3 run (Walmsley kick), 10:19.

CV–Alexander 9 run (DeSantis kick), 6:10.

CV–Alexander 2 run (Walmsley kick), 4:02.

Third Quarter

CV–Alexander 25 run (DeSantis kick), 5:46.

B–Ebersole 57 pass from Swaim (pass failed), 1:48.

B–Ressler 19 pass from Swaim (Miller pass from Swaim), :23.

Fourth Quarter

CV–Thompson 5 run (Walmsley kick), 8:44.

TEAM STATISTICS CV B

First downs 18 19

Total yards 457 255

Rushes-yards 28-270 33-23

Yards passing 187 232

Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 9-11-0 19-34-1

Punts-avg. 0-0 2-31

Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-0

Penalties-yards 11-114 4-33

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING–Central Valley, Alexander 17-159, Walker 2-85, Ja. Thompson 3-19, Dudley 5-6, Saunders 1-1. Bedford, Cook 7-22, Ebersole 4-11, Ressler 4-5, Weber 1-0, Swaim 17-(-15).

PASSING–Central Valley, Dudley 9-11-0-187. Bedford, Swaim 18-33-1-232, Ressler 1-1-0-8.

RECEIVING–Central Valley, Walker 3-21, Ju. Thompson 2-60, Graham 2-30, Merritt 1-48, Ja. Thompson 1-28. Bedford, Ressler 11-95, Ebersole 4-94, Edwards 2-22, Cook 1-21, Weber 1-8.

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