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Knoch players, community hoping for return trip to Heinz Field

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 7:39 p.m.
VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Knoch defender Mike Cunningham, left, fights through a block during practice at Knoch High School in Jefferson Township on August 16, 2001. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Knoch head football coach Mike King encourages his players during practice at Knoch High School in Jefferson Township on August 16, 2001. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch

Last month, Knoch returned to Heinz Field, the site of its last football game, for WPXI's media day event.

The experience wasn't as enormous and pressure-packed as its previous trip to the WPIAL Class AAA championship game in November. The Knights didn't need a tour of the place where they lost to Montour, 42-14, on that same Steelers sod.

But the bad taste of that loss — more bitter than a straight shot of Heinz mustard — came rushing back.

Knoch finished 12-1 after reaching the WPIAL title game for the first time since 1992.

“It was great to get there, but after losing in somewhat of an embarrassing fashion, we took a week off and hit the weight room again,” Knoch senior quarterback Dakota Bruggeman said. “We wrote on the wall we're getting back to Heinz Field — but we're going there to win.”

Knoch may just have the talent for another postseason surge, as Saxonburg chants for an encore. Last year's bunch broke team records for wins and points (476) in a season.

A major key will be the play of an experienced offensive line, which returns tackles Eric Kelin (6-5, 270) and Nathan Anuskiewicz (6-1, 200), and tight end Luke Kroneberg, all seniors.

“The starters played 13 games last year, and we have some juniors coming up,” coach Mike King said. “I think we'll be pretty competitive (on the line). There's a hunger there. Some kids got a taste of it last year.”

Senior Travis Fogel and Matt Miller and juniors Kraig King and Spencer Kale also are seeking playing time up front.

Like 2011, King expects several players to get in on the act offensively.

“The evolution of the offense last year kind of started a process where we started to think of things differently, in terms of how we can utilize kids,” King said. “That allows us to be creative with our gameplan. The spread allows you to do that. And that's important these days.”

Bruggeman (6-5, 200) will move from receiver, and wideout Ben Tackett will slide over to running back, replacing two other playmakers.

Graduates Ky Kenyon and Andrew Rumburg-Goodlin were two of Class AAA's best at quarterback and tailback last year.

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