Knoch tops West Allegheny in emotional win
Somewhere, perhaps atop a pyramid with pom-poms raised, Alexis Summers still is cheering on the Knoch football team.
On an emotional night when Saxonburg mourned the loss of the senior cheerleader, Knoch overcame a slow start and rallied behind its star running back to down West Allegheny, 28-7, in a WPIAL Class AAA first-round game Friday night at Knoch Knights Stadium.
Summers was killed Tuesday night in a one-car accident not far from the high school. Senior running back Andrew Rumburg-Goodlin, Summers' boyfriend, led the Knights onto the field and ripped through a sign held up by the cheerleaders before giving the team a spirited postgame speech.
Rumburg-Goodlin, hampered by a sore ankle but charged with adrenaline, proceeded to rush for 109 yards on 16 carries, and quarterback Ky Kenyon threw three touchdown passes and ran for another. The third-seeded Knights (10-0) advanced to the quarterfinals to face Thomas Jefferson (7-3).
"No more tears — only happiness," Rumburg-Goodlin told his teammates after the game before a balloon release and several moments of silence. At the final horn, the spectators pointed to the sky.
"Alex would have wanted me to play. She told me that (at the beginning of the week)," Rumburg-Goodlin said. "We did this for her. She touched so many lives."
Ben Tackett also had a big night for Knoch, posting a 33-yard touchdown catch and an 83-yard interception return that set up Knoch's final score, a 3-yard TD run by Kenyon with 3:48 left.
"This means everything to the kids and the community," coach Mike King said. "We all learned tonight that this is just a game."
Kenyon gave Knoch an insurance score with 7:52 left when he zipped a short pass to Tackett, who bounced off defenders and barreled his way into the end zone for a 21-7 advantage.
"Everyone just came together tonight and did their jobs," Kenyon said. "This one was for Alex, and the next one will be, too."
With West Allegheny keying on the run, Knoch went to the air and was effective. Kenyon threw two first-half scores, including a 36-yard strike to Dakota Bruggeman to push Knoch's lead to 14-7 at halftime.
West Allegheny scored on the opening drive, with running back Tony Delmonico bursting through the left side for a 53-yard run to set up a 1-yard touchdown by quarterback Dylan Bongiorni.
"If losing a football game is the worst thing that will happen in these kids' lives," West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said. "I think we'll be OK."
After a punt, Knights linebacker Luke Kroneberg forced a fumble, and Andrew Tuzikow recovered the ball to set up a tying touchdown. Kory Wood connected on a 33-yard field goal, but that was erased when Knoch accepted a personal-foul penalty on the kick to set up first-and-goal from the 8. Kenyon found Mac Megahan across the middle on a short slant for an 8-yard touchdown to make it 7-7.