New look carries Knoch past Indiana
Knoch debuted a new scoreboard for the first time in 30 years Friday night. The Knights also flipped a new switch on the offense.
Senior running back Ben Tackett spent much of the night playing wildcat quarterback and led the No. 9 Knights to a 20-14, playoff-clinching victory over Indiana at Knoch Knights Stadium.
Trading handoffs for direct snaps much of the game, Tackett rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. He also threw a touchdown pass for Knoch (6-2, 5-2 Greater Allegheny Conference) before a hefty Senior Night crowd.
“Ben can make things happen for us,” coach Mike King said. “As you saw tonight, not only is he a great runner, but he can throw, too.”
Tackett, who topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark, said the wildcat has been a work in progress this season, and the plan was to use it more Friday.
“It's a whole new glitch,” he said. “It's a headache for the defense to prepare for. It's great that my teammates have the faith in me to put the ball in my hands.”
Quarterback Dakota Bruggeman lined up wide and ran under one of Tackett's two pass attempts on the first play of the fourth. The ball landed softly in his hands, and the play went for a 56-yard touchdown down the near sideline to put Knoch ahead 20-7.
“He put the ball on the money,” Bruggeman said.
Indiana (2-6, 2-5) answered behind receiver Darrious Carter, who picked up 14 yards on fourth-and-11 at midfield and then snagged a pass across the middle and broke free for a 36-yard score to get the Indians within 20-14 with 8:25 left.
Carter was sensational, catching seven passes for 130 yards. Indians quarterback Sean Thompson threw 30 times, completing 11.
Knoch, despite penalties that gave pass-happy Indiana more chances, held on.
“Indiana is one of the best 2-6 teams I have seen,” King said. “I was happy with the way our defense played, but we know we have to look more like a playoff-winning caliber team. Sometimes you don't always play your best but get the win.”
Knoch opened the scoring when Tackett, lining up in the wildcat on back-to-back plays, took a direct snap and raced 45 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked.
Tackett fumbled on a punt return, and Indiana's Thomas Kanyarusoke recovered with 7:34 left in the second quarter.
A play later, Thompson, playing for injured starter Dequan West, maneuvered his way through the middle of the line for a 22-yard scoring run to give the Indians a 7-6 lead.
Both teams fumbled three times in the first half, losing two each. Also in the second quarter, Bruggeman caught a tipped pass for an interception and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown, but a hold negated the score.
Knoch took the second-half kickoff and drove 75 yards in 11 plays, including nine runs by Tackett, who scored from 4 yards. Tight end Luke Kroneberg snared a two-point pass from Bruggeman to make it 14-7.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.