Alle-Kiski Valley football notebook: Highlands tries to leave lone loss in the past
One bad game. Highlands admits to having one bad game.
But six good ones seem to have covered the damage quite well.
The Golden Rams, ranked No. 7 in Class AAA by Trib Total Media, are 6-1 and a half-game ahead of Franklin Regional and Mars for first place in the Greater Allegheny Conference standings.
But there's that Mars loss — that Week 4 brush burn that is healing well but still stings (when people bring it up in passing).
The word fluke is way too strong to describe the Rams' 39-0 loss, because No. 5 Mars (6-1) has proven it's one of the top teams in Class AAA. But on a schedule of impressive wins, amped up by strong defensive play and a potent running attack — things that were expected of this team — the Mars game is on an island.
• Highlands had allowed less than 80 yards rushing for the season entering the Mars game, but the Fighting Planets carved up the Golden Rams' defense to surpass that total by halftime — including 64 on their opening drive.
• Mars ran for 178 yards, which accounts for 33 percent of the rushing yards allowed by Highlands all season.
• Take away Mars' points and Highlands has allowed only 49 in its six other games.
“I think we started getting big-headed after we beat Franklin Regional (21-0) the week before,” Highlands senior linebacker Allan Cratsenberg said. “That (Mars) game really brought us back down to earth. No one said a word after that game. We all got really serious.”
Highlands came back with a vengeance, beating Indiana, Derry and Greensburg Salem by a combined score of 137-28. And the playoff-bound Rams remain in the race for a conference title.
The Mars game could be just the reality check they needed to make their mark. And it could have happened at just the right time on the schedule to be a fading memory.
“When something like that happens, it can go either way,” Cratsenberg said. “A team can either fall down from that or they can come back stronger.”
Highlands hosts No. 7 Ringgold (5-2) on Friday night, but the Golden Rams might play cautious with one conference game left next week.
“We have an exhibition game, and we're going to treat it like one,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said last week. “Last year it cost us a running back, and Ringgold lost a quarterback. (Nonconference games) should be for Week 1 or 2.”
Kiski Area climbing?
Kiski Area improved to 4-3 with an impressive 34-14 home win over Penn-Trafford last week, and the attention-grabbing victory moved the Cavaliers a step closer to a sort of renaissance in the program.
Kiski Area hasn't had a winning season since 2003. It already has clinched a playoff spot in the Quad East Conference, but the question this week is, can they do it again?
The table is set for an even bigger upset this week at No. 4-ranked McKeesport (7-0, 6-0). If the Cavaliers can stay with the Tigers, confidence could be large heading into the postseason.
Throw it away
Teams finally are learning that it's not a good idea to challenge the defensive secondary of Class A No. 9 Apollo-Ridge.
The Vikings (5-2) have nine interceptions through seven games, four of which were returned for touchdowns. Freshman Duane Brown and junior Tre Tipton each have four interceptions, with Brown taking two back for scores, while Tipton and senior Dillon Tones each have one pick-6.
Snap count at four
Knoch started the season with a quarterback competition, but since has begun operating a quarterback carousel.
Knoch has played four different players under center this season. All four played last week in the first half against Mars. Regular starter Dan Farinelli saw time, but backup Troy Hixson threw a pass, and wide receiver Ryan Grossman and running back Cody Milsom took direct snaps from the wildcat formation.
All of those players are juniors.
“You try to work guys in and see what happens,” Knoch coach Mike King said. “Sometimes, you're trying to find that spark.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.