DAVIDSVILLE — River Valley running back Angelo Bartolini racked up 237 yards rushing and four touchdowns as the Panthers trounced the Indians on their homecoming night, 42-17.
“The effort of this team is unreal,” said River Valley coach Jess Houser after his newly formed squad improved to 4-0. “They bring it every game. You can’t ask for anything else being a first year head coach.”
Bartolini had two 56-yard rushing touchdowns in the first half to pair with another score from 33 yards out. He pounded out 177 yards on just 10 carries in the first half.
“He’s been doing that every week,” said Houser of his workhorse. “Once we get him going, there isn’t any stopping him. The other players just feed off of it. He was just great today.”
Conemaugh Township coach Tony Penna Jr. said he knew what kind of challenge River Valley’s run game posed.
“Bartolini is a pretty special kid,” said Penna Jr. “We knew that going in. It’s not easy to bring him down. ... You have to be able to stop the run if you want to win football games. That’s something we haven’t had a lot of success with. I’m happy with my kids’ effort, but we have to execute better.”
River Valley’s defense forced four total turnovers, including three fumbles, with one being returned 37 yards for a touchdown by defensive lineman Bradley Miller. Conemaugh Township (1-3) did not run a play in Panthers territory in the second half.
River Valley (4-0) led by just four, 21-17, at the start of the third quarter, but a drive that chewed up more than six minutes of clock and ended with a Bartolini 5-yard TD run swung all the momentum.
The Indians lost three fumbles on three straight possessions after the Panthers made it a two-score game.
Conemaugh Township quarterback Tanner Shirley finished 9 of 14 for 138 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
He went down with a lower leg injury with a minute to play in the first half. Shirley returned in the third quarter, but the injury took its toll as he was limited to just two completions for 15 yards and a lost fumble in the second half.
“We can’t win games when we turn the ball over,” said Penna. “We were a little dinged. Tanner took a pop there, so we weren’t healthy. You want to keep it spread wide open, but we just weren’t protecting him... It was a very rough second half, not effort wise, just execution wise.”
Junior wide receiver Ethan Black caught three passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns. He made a spectacular 30-yard TD grab in the back of the end zone to get the Indians within a score in the late stages of the first half. Senior playmaker Jackson Byer caught three passes for 65 yards in the first half, but was held without a catch in the second half.
River Valley plays host to Purchase Line next week.