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West Mifflin pulls away from Knoch late

| Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, 11:28 p.m.
Members of the West Mifflin defense stop Knoch's Ben Tackett (8) in the second quarter on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, at West Mifflin Titan Stadium. Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Tribune-Review

Knoch controlled the line of scrimmage through almost three quarters Friday at West Mifflin, methodically taking control while seemingly on its way to an upset in Class AAA playoff action.

And then, the final 14 minutes became a bonanza of big plays.

Advantage, West Mifflin.

The Titans are blessed with two of the WPIAL's finest big-play artists, and behind tailback Jimmy Wheeler and quarterback Derrick Fulmore, they exploded late for a 28-14 victory.

West Mifflin, angry about its No. 7 seed, will have a chance to prove itself next week in the quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Mars.

“It definitely wasn't looking good,” West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo said. “It seemed like they were just taking over the game.”

West Mifflin's two brightest stars, though, had the last laugh.

Wheeler finished with 181 yards and three touchdowns, and Fulmore produced 135 yards and the game's biggest play.

The game changed late in the third quarter.

Although the score was 7-7, Knoch had run 41 plays, more than twice as many as the Titans. Making matters worse for West Mifflin was that quarterback Dakota Bruggerman's punt went gone out of bounds at the West Mifflin 1, leaving the Titans 99 yards from taking the lead.

“I was really feeling good about the game at that point,” Knoch coach Mike King said. “We were playing well and in really good position.”

Fulmore, though, changed everything with three consecutive plays.

The quarterback had been off his game for most of the rainy evening at West Mifflin, but he gave his team breathing room with a 3-yard run on third-and-3 from his 8. He then scrambled for 16 yards. On the next play, Fulmore sprinted down the left sideline for a 71-yard touchdown.

“We have some really explosive football players,” Braszo said. “Give them some room in the open field, and they can really go.”

On the ensuing kickoff, Knock made its biggest mistake.

Knoch star running back Ben Tackett muffed the kickoff. West Mifflin's Ricky Olasz made the recovery, and the Titans soon scored to go ahead, 21-7.

The Knights roared back with a touchdown from Bruggerman, who threw for 196 yards.

Wheeler then broke away from the pack for a 55-yard touchdown run, and West Mifflin added two interceptions in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

West Mifflin's defense did a great job containing Tackett after the first quarter. He had 77 yards rushing through 12 minutes; he finished with 85.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1975.

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