Knoch has easy time vs. Hollidaysburg
There's nothing like a linebacker intercepting a pass and seeing an open lane to the end zone.
That's what Knoch's Mike Cunningham experienced less than five minutes into Friday's game against Hollidaysburg.
Cunningham's 42-yard return got the Knights started toward a 35-0 victory over the Golden Tigers in the first game between the two Greater Allegheny Conference schools.
Cunningham later scored on a 25-yard pass from Dakota Bruggeman, as Knoch won its 20th regular season game in its past 21 outings before a large homecoming crowd at Knoch Knights Stadium.
“It looked great,” Cunningham said of his wide-open path to the end zone. “All week my linebackers coach told me to get into my drop area and be ready.”
“Mike is what you want out of a veteran linebacker,” said Knoch coach Mike King. “He can make big plays and ignite a team. It's the type of game you'd expect out of a team captain who's started for a while.”
Knoch, ranked seventh in this week's Trib Total Media Class AAA poll, is 4-0 overall, 3-0 in conference play.
Hollidaysburg, shut out for the second consecutive week, is 2-2, 2-1.
The Golden Tigers hung with the Knights until Bruggeman and Luke Kroneberg hooked up for a 47-yard pass play to the Hollidaysburg 7.
On the following play, Ben Tackett, who entered the game leading the WPIAL in touchdowns, scored his 12th of the season to put the Knights in the driver's seat.
“I felt like that was the spark that we needed,” King said. “Luke ran a nice pass route, and after that I think our kids got a shot of confidence. That seemed to be the thing that turned it.”
“It was one of those things where something bad happened to us, and we didn't respond,” said Hollidaysburg coach John Barton. “They hit a big play, and we didn't pick ourselves right up.”
On the third play after the ensuing kickoff, Bruggeman intercepted a Brian Urban pass at the Golden Tigers 45, setting up Knoch's third touchdown of the night. A tight end screen to Kroneberg resulted in a 14-yard score.
Hollidaysburg's biggest possession of the night was a 12-play drive to the Knoch 37, but an incomplete pass on fourth down turned the ball over to the Knights.
Knoch proceeded to drive 63 yards for the final score. Kroneberg caught a fourth-down pass from Bruggeman at the 7 and dragged two defenders into the end zone.
Overall, the Knights came up with four turnovers.
“It's an aggressive style of defense,” King said. “That's the way we coach it; that's the way we play it. Our kids absolutely love to play defense.”
Bruggeman finished with 137 passing yards.
George Guido is a freelance writer.