Knoch shocks No. 9 Highlands
Eliminated from the WPIAL playoffs due to a series of tiebreakers and with three starters injured, Knoch put together a superb effort and denied Highlands a chance at a share of the Greater Allegheny title.
The Knights took advantage of five Golden Rams turnovers and used two long touchdowns passes of their own to upset visiting No. 9 Highlands, 19-7, on Friday.
A 60-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Dan Farinelli to Jim Larrimer, a 51-yard scoring toss from Cole Shinsky to fellow sophomore Brennan McTighe and a pair of Logan Tupper field goals propelled Knoch.
Farinelli finished with 226 passing yards.
The Knights (4-5, 3-5) finished in a four-way tie for fifth place in the conference with Hampton, Hollidaysburg and Greensburg Salem.
Hollidaysburg and Hampton, however, won the head-to-head tiebreakers and will get the playoff nods.
Highlands (6-3, 6-2) finished one game behind conference co-champs Franklin Regional and Mars.
Despite the loss, the Golden Rams will open the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs at home Friday.
Playoff pairings will be issued Monday night.
The Knights won without lineman Kraig King, injured last week, and starting backs Cody Milsom and Cory Goldlewski, who left Friday's game early.
“They deserved this win maybe more than any team I've ever coached because they never gave up,” Knoch coach Mike King said. “That was truly amazing with the players hurt, the game fell to Dan Farinelli at quarterback and some of the younger players we had coming in.”
The Highlands touchdown came on a 30-yard interception return by Elijah Jackson in the second quarter.
Among the Golden Rams turnovers, safety Adam Albert intercepted a Highlands pass right in front of his father, Golden Rams coach Sam Albert.
“I'm really disappointed. We played a bad game,” coach Albert said. “The two biggest games of the year — Knoch and Mars — and we don't play well. It was one of those nights: Everything that could go wrong went wrong.”
George Guido is a freelance writer.