No. 9 Knoch braces for No. 6 Franklin Regional
Knoch and Franklin Regional haven't played since last year's WPIAL Class AAA semifinals in a game that went down to the final seconds and drew about 8,000 to Valley Memorial Stadium.
Their last matchup could be viewed a couple of ways.
On the surface, it was an instant classic, destined for an A-K Valley highlight reel because of its magnitude and thrilling finish.
“We have called a lot of good games over the years, but that may be the best in terms of the finish,” Knoch longtime radio broadcaster Scott Briggs said.
Or maybe Knoch's 9-7 win was simply a series of three-and-outs interrupted by a few big plays, one of which happened to be a last-second field goal.
Purists and casual observers, have at it.
Either way, ninth-ranked Knoch hopes for the same result Thursday night when the teams — both 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the Greater Allegheny Conference — play in front of a Root Sports television audience. It will be the first live televised home game in Knoch history.
“From a coach's perspective, if we play good defense, we feel we can play with anybody,” Knoch coach Mike King said. “It comes down to two heavyweights going 15 rounds. Whoever is left standing, wins.”
Last year, Kory Wood, who has since graduated, kicked an 18-yard field goal as the final seconds ticked away to springboard Knoch to its first WPIAL championship game appearance since 1992.
Knoch hit a 72-yard pass play to Ben Tackett with 2:47 left. That set up a series of rushes to the Panthers' 1. Knoch nearly lost a fumble but recovered with 3.8 seconds left to set up Wood's field goal.
Both teams have had a short week of practice, Knoch following its first loss of the season, 20-17 at Hampton.
Knoch was missing two key linemen last week. Senior center Travis Fogel (shoulder) and senior guard Joe Colonello (illness) didn't play but could return Thursday.
No. 6 Franklin Regional, meantime, hopes to benefit from the return of senior running back Dane Brown, who has missed three games with an ankle injury.
Brown, who rushed for 1,960 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior, saw limited time in his initial return last week. He threw a touchdown on a half-back option against Knoch last year but was limited to 61 yards rushing.
“Our defense will have its hands full,” King said. “They're as good as they were last year. I don't think our kids will be intimidated. If there's a heart beating in your chest, you want this game.”
And speaking of defense, the Panthers' has been stellar, allowing a Class-AAA-low 31 points in five games.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.