Knoch, West Mifflin matchup shaping up to be 1st-round classic
TribLIVE Sports Videos
No. 10-seeded Knoch and No. 7 West Mifflin find themselves near the middle of the WPIAL Class AAA playoff bracket, but their game has the potential to be anything but a ho-hum, middle-of-the-road matchup.
Consider that Knoch (7-2) dominated No. 2 Mars, 21-0, on Oct. 12.
And West Mifflin (8-1) nearly went undefeated but lost to No. 1 Thomas Jefferson, 28-14, in last week's regular-season finale.
Those accomplishments belong at the top of résumés in bold print and make Knoch's visit to West Mifflin at 7:30 p.m. Friday one of the more intriguing first-round meetings in a deep Class AAA field. It also will be televised on Root Sports.
West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo considers Knoch, last year's WPIAL AAA runner-up, an extremely challenging first-round opponent — especially for a team that fell short of 9-0 by losing a close game to the top-seeded team.
“We weren't real pleased (with the pairings),” Braszo said. “We know Knoch is a good football program that has had success. They beat Mars. That's a tough first-round game.”
Knoch coach Mike King also thinks West Mifflin could end up being much better than its seeding seems to indicate.
“I think West Mifflin gave Thomas Jefferson everything they could handle,” Knoch coach Mike King said.
Knoch defeated Mars following close losses to Hampton (20-17) and Franklin Regional (23-13). Propelled by their defense, the Knights turned heads around the WPIAL with their performance against high-scoring Mars, which is averaging 37.7 points per game.
Knoch's 3-5 defense features senior outside linebacker Mike Cunningham.
“We were coming off two losses, and it hit us that we needed to pick it up,” Cunningham said. “Defensively, we always get up. We love hitting people. We wanted to make a statement in that game. If the team comes out and plays like that, we can do well.”
Both teams lean heavily on their ground attack and feature speedy ball carriers, but Knoch has had more success passing.
West Mifflin junior running back Jimmy Wheeler, one of the top rushers in the WPIAL, has collected more than 1,600 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. Senior Derrick Fulmore is a dual-threat quarterback who has passed and rushed for more than 500 yards.
Knoch senior running back Ben Tackett has rushed for 1,085 yards on 181 carries, caught 12 passes for 193 yards, and tallied 19 touchdowns. Meanwhile, senior quarterback Dakota Bruggeman has completed 62 of 130 passes for 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns.
West Mifflin is scoring 37.8 and allowing 12.2 points per game. Knoch hasn't been as prolific on offense (28.3 ppg) but has been slightly better on defense (10.2 ppg).
“I think we've played well defensively all season,” King said. “I think the kids are up to the challenge.”
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-224-2696.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Hit sends Penguins’ Letang to hospital
- GOP succeeding at down-ballot level
- Pirates pitchers finding success with expanded strike zone
- Downie’s goal, fight spark Penguins to win over Coyotes
- Mt. Lebanon native, Iraq war hero’s action goes unrewarded
- South Side house part of former Steeler’s end game
- Alvarez latest in Pirates’ revolving door at first base
- Starkey: Next frontier for Steelers offense
- Pirates notebook: Polanco’s power outburst a matter of timing
- Pitt’s Amara offers Vision of hope