Knoch blanks powerful Mars
Knoch rebounded from a pair of close, disheartening defeats by shutting out one of the top offensive teams in the WPIAL.
The Knights, ranked No. 10 in Class AAA by Trib Total Media, shocked No. 4 and previously undefeated Mars, 21-0, Friday night in a Greater Allegheny Conference matchup at Mars Athletic Complex.
Knoch (5-2, 4-2) limited Mars to 150 yards and recorded six sacks. Mars (6-1, 5-1) entered the contest averaging 44.2 points per game.
“I can't say enough about our defense,” Knoch coach Mike King said. “Defensive coordinator Frank Whalen had a great game plan. That was the key, holding their offense. Everybody did a great job.”
Knoch's offensive attack was led by senior running back Ben Tackett, who rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries and caught two passes for 50 yards.
Mars sophomore running back Josh Schultheis, one of the leading rushers in the WPIAL, was held to 72 yards on 17 attempts. Schultheis surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season but didn't add to his total of 19 scores.
“They didn't do anything differently on defense,” Mars coach Scott Heinhauer said. “I have to hand it to Knoch. They were just the more physical team.”
Knoch also got strong offensive contributions from senior quarterback Dakota Bruggeman, who completed 5 of 8 passes for 79 yards, and senior tight end Luke Kroneberg, who had three receptions for 29 yards.
Bruggeman connected with Kroneberg on a two-point conversion for Knoch's final points. That followed a 1-yard touchdown run by Tackett with 8:09 left.
That score was set up by a stand by Knoch's defense. Trailing 13-0, Mars faced a fourth-and-1 at its 15-yard line. But Knoch's defensive line and linebackers stuffed Schultheis for no gain.
Late in the first quarter, Knoch drove for a first-and-goal at the 5, but Bruggeman was hurt on the previous play and temporarily left the game. Tackett lined up at quarterback, took the shotgun snap and pushed ahead for a touchdown. Sophomore Logan Tupper's extra point gave the Knights an early 7-0 edge.
Tackett struck again with an 80-yard touchdown sprint with 1:45 left before halftime, but the extra-point was missed.
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.