Hampton grounds high-flying Knoch
Knoch football coach Mike King thinks his program may have gotten spoiled with the runaway wins and highlight-reel plays that have become customary for the Knights.
But King and his team learned a tough lesson Friday night: They aren't all that easy.
The No. 7-ranked Knights committed three turnovers, including a pair of costly interceptions, and never found a rhythm in the running game, as they were upset, 20-17, by No. 10 Hampton in a Greater Allegheny Conference game at Fridley Field.
“Just because you're winning by 30 points doesn't mean teams are going to lay down for you,” King said. “You don't learn a whole lot from blowouts. We need to learn how to adjust in games like this. We have to refocus.”
Knoch (4-1 3-1) has averaged at least 34 points per game across the past two-plus seasons. Two years ago, they put up 52.5 points per game heading into a Week 5 showdown at Hampton. They eked that one out, 17-14.
King said Hampton is a tough place to play, calling games there an anomaly.
“Not sure what it is,” King said.
Hampton (4-1, 3-1) was prepared for Knoch's big-play running back, senior Ben Tackett. The Talbots held the speedster to 5 yards in the first half on eight carries.
Tackett, who came in with 550 yards and 11 touchdowns, was held to 65 yards and no scores on 18 carries.
“Teams in Class AAA are well-coached,” King said. “We can't just give the ball to Ben Tackett or Mike Cunningham every time. If you become one-dimensional, teams will figure you out.”
Hampton coach Jacque DeMatteo was pleased to see his team keep its poise.
“We haven't been in a slugfest match like that in a while,” DeMatteo said. “We talked about it all week. All you can ask is that we go blow-to-blow with them. Our kids did that. This was a team effort.”
With the run game somewhat stalled, Knoch turned to the pass. Dakota Bruggeman completed 6 of 17 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. But Hampton's Jon Nigro was more effective, as he went 10 of 24 for 144 yards and the game-winning score.
The backbreaker for Knoch was a 40-yard scoring strike from Nigro to 6-foot-5 Collin Luther on a fade pattern to put the Talbots up 20-17 with 3:15 to play.
“We saw a coverage we liked, and our offensive coordinator made a great call,” DeMatteo said. “Nigro played a great game.”
Bruggeman threw 14 times before halftime with an interception. Hampton turned the pick into points, as Frank Bello, who had the interception, scored on a 1-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
Bruggeman bounced back, finding tight end Luke Kroneberg for a 34-yard touchdown just before the half on 4th-and-3 to make it 10-7. Cunningham broke free for a 45-yard gain into Hampton territory to set up the score.
Knoch's most productive drive of the first half, which lasted 11 plays, included 21- and 23-yard pass plays from Bruggeman to Adam Albert and Tackett.
But the Knights settled on a 25-yard field goal by Luke Tupper.
“We have to be happy sometimes with the 4- or 5-yard play,” King said. “You're not always going to get those splash plays.”
Another interception, by Zac Gonzales, hurt Knoch early in the fourth. Bello converted again on another 1-yard touchdown, bouncing to the outside to make it 14-10.
Knoch responded quickly, as Bruggeman found Cunningham for a 36-yard scoring pass, with Cunningham pinballing off a nice block from Kaleb Dietz for a 17-14 Knoch lead.
But Hampton wouldn't go away, despite an interception of a Ryan Luther pass by Knoch's Albert with 6:55 left.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-226-2689.