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Knoch looking for new batch of leaders

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:56 p.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Knoch offensive lineman Connor Shinsky, left, blocks during practice on Wednesday, August 14, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Knoch running back Cory Godlewski catches a pass during practice on Wednesday, August 14, 2013.

With little turnover at key positions over the past few seasons, Knoch hasn't had to worry about filling in the starting lineup.

This year, training camp looked like a job fair in Saxonburg. The team is holding more auditions than the drama club.

“It's going to be an interesting year,” coach Mike King said. “The fun part is finding out what the kids can do. The interesting part is finding out who fits and who wants to step up. There could be guys turning into major role-players.”

With a high-powered offense that scored touchdowns in bunches, Knoch recently grew into a Class AAA contender, reaching the WPIAL title game in 2011.

But a team built on sure-thing players for four years is facing changes. Schemes will remain intact, but personnel has changed.

The Knights will build around two-way lineman Connor Shinsky, a Division I prospect who has scholarship offers from Kent State, Texas at El Paso and St. Francis (Pa.).

Shinsky (6-foot-6, 265 pounds) in his junior season earned All-Greater Allegheny Conference first-team honors.

A heated competition exists at quarterback, where junior Troy Hixson, sophomore Cole Shinsky and junior Dan Farinelli, a transfer from Valley, are vying to replace standout Dakota Bruggeman.

“A lot of guys are eager to improve and step out of the shadow of some of the guys who have played in front of them,” King said. “There's a lot of outstanding competition.”

King said fans already are buzzing about these little-known players.

“People come up to me and say, ‘Boy, it's going to be hard to match the last couple seasons,' ” King said. “The kids hear those comments, and it fires them up. They're not on many people's radar.”

At running back, juniors Cody Milsom and Cory Godlewski appear to be at the front of the line. Milsom started solely on defense last year.

Senior Adam Albert will be a key at wide receiver and defensive back. Senior Kraig King (5-11, 220) also is a returning starter on the offensive line. Coach King said he believes position battles can be a good thing.

“That's what football dreams are made of,” Coach King said. “Opportunity. You get a feeling about a kid of he's a competitor or not. It's just not good enough to just be the best at Knoch for some of these kids.”

King said players who watched from the sidelines also got an up-close glimpse at life in the Greater Allegheny Conference.

“The kids have seen what it takes to beat teams in our conference, and those are some of the best in Class AAA,” King said. “Our guys know it's not easy.”

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