Take that

Union/AC Valley’s goal is clear – Take that final step and win the D9 Class A championship – D9Sports.com

RIMERSBURG, PA (EYT/D9) — The Union/AC Valley football team was close.

Oh so close.

(Above, Mikey Card went from offensive line to running back last season and led Union/AC Valley with 898 rushing yards/photo by Shelly Atzeni)

The Falcon Knights erased a 21-point deficit against Redbank Valley in the District 9 Class A Championship game last November. It was something of their calling card in 2021 – the resilience to rally around almost any adversity.

But the run ended in a 28-21 loss.

Still, Union/AC Valley had their most successful season since the two schools began cooperating in 2016. The Falcon Knights went 9-3, had a three-game streak without giving up a point and outclassed their enemies 390-136.

They expect even better this season – but also realize it won’t just be handed to them.

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Sports coverage of Redbank Valley, Keystone and Union/AC Valley on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

“We have to work very hard to take the next step,” Union/AC Valley coach Brad Dittman said. “We’re not going to get there by just saying we’re going to take the next step. There is a lot of work to do. We have a lot of players with experience, but we have to work on the details.

In all three losses, penalties and turnovers weighed on Union/AC Valley.

The main goal of the camp was simple: clean up those mistakes.

“Some things that cost us in those games last year, ball safety, special teams, penalties, we really need to focus on those things to take the next step,” Dittman said. “If you’re going to compete for championships, you can’t make some of the mistakes that we made.”

The good thing for the Falcon Knights is that they have a lot of their best players returning, including a two-headed monster in the backfield.

Mikey Card senior moved from offensive line to running back last season and has been a force in his new role.

He slimmed down and showed power and speed as he rushed for 898 yards on just 112 carries and seven touchdowns.

Junior Dawson Camper was also a star for Union/AC Valley, rushing for 631 yards on 87 attempts. He had a nose for the end zone, scoring 13 touchdowns.

“What Mikey and Dawson did for us last year – they did a ton,” Dittman said. “I think what I liked the most about them was that they never complained. You know, if we had given him the ball all the time, Mikey would have had 2,000 yards. But we we broke up. We had our eye on (Card) for a few years – we knew we were going to make this change. He didn’t disappoint.”

Union also has quarterbacks Bailey Crissman and Brody Dittman back.

At the end of last season, the two time-shared. Crissman, now 6-foot-7, threw for 902 yards and 13 touchdowns and Dittman added 348 passing yards and five more touchdowns.

Crissman battled a hip injury on the stretch, but is healthy now.

Coach Dittman isn’t sure the two will share time again.

“We preach competitively every year, and we have a group of kids who can compete this year,” the coach said. “No starting job is guaranteed, and we expect younger guys to push these older guys.”

One player who will be an anchor on both sides of the ball is Landon Chalmers.

The senior was the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference Lineman of the Year. As good as he was at keeping players out of the backfield as an attacking guard, he might have been even better at getting into the backfield as a defensive tackle.
Chalmers had 56 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and six sacks last season.

“He had a pretty solid season,” Dittman said. “We are looking for him to lead these groups on the O and D lines. We need his leadership and we need him to help these young guys mobilize and teach them what they need to do.

Union/AC Valley also have two of their top three receivers at seniors Skyler Roxbury and Ryan Cooper.

Roxbury caught 23 passes for 471 yards and five touchdowns and Cooper had 22 receptions for 393 yards and seven scores.

The attack should again be diversified, however, with the ball split between several playmakers.

“It’s great and it’s just nice to know that you don’t always have to be the best player that night because there are five other people who are going to be as good as you hope to be,” said said Roxbury.

Roxbury was equally good on defense with eight interceptions. In all, Union/AC Valley completed 23 assists last year.

Everyone by Caiden Rainey, who had an INT, is back.

They all have one goal: to win the District 9 Class A Championship.

Union/AC Valley know well which team they need to conquer to achieve this.

“For the past two years – and I think it’s continuing this year – we’ve been chasing the Redbank Valley,” Dittman said. “We try to get to where they are.”

Another thing Union/AC Valley is looking for is numbers.

The Falcon Knights finally have enough players to form a high school team, which now allows Dittman to raise his freshman class.

This means that instead of just cracking 20 players, Union/AC Valley will have 38 this year.

“For us, it’s phenomenal,” Dittman said. “Usually we dress 17 or 18 guys on a Friday night. It will be fun to have this number to work with and run a full JV schedule. This is where we wanted to be. We haven’t been there for the past few years, but I think we’re finally getting the program where hopefully it’s the future and we can do it year after year. To be successful and compete for championships, that’s what needs to happen every year. We need this JV time.

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Sports coverage of Redbank Valley, Keystone and Union/AC Valley on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.