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Highlands gets second shot at Knoch

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Monday, Nov. 5, 2007

Football coaches like to live in the present. To them, there is no next week.

Mike King of Knoch and Sam Albert of Highlands had to deviate from that thinking when the WPIAL playoff pairings were released a week ago at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Moon.

How could the coaches, and good friends, not take a peek at the second round of the Class AAA playoff bracket•

The possibility of a rematch of their Week 9 Greater Alllegheny Conference showdown loomed large. The scenario was simple. Should the teams post first-round wins, they would get a curtain call.

"Honestly, I thought it was a distinct possibility that we would see them again," King said. "I didn't think it would be this quick. But here it is."

The possibility became reality two nights ago when Knoch and Highlands raced into the quarterfinals with playoff-opening victories, setting the stage for a second meeting -- this one with much more at stake than a conference title.

Knoch (8-2), the No. 3 seed in Class AAA, will take on No. 11 Highlands (8-2).

Sites and times for the quarterfinals will be announced at noon today.

Knoch, like it has all season, rode tailback Tim McNerney to a 42-24 win over New Castle, while Highlands rallied late to get past Blackhawk, 21-19.

McNerney rushed for 297 yards and four touchdowns, moving him over the 1,600-yard mark for the season. Highlands junior quarterback Jeff Sinclair led a late scoring drive and capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run, as the Golden Rams came back from a 19-15 deficit with four minutes to play.

Knoch won easily the last time the teams met on Oct. 26 at Knoch. The Knights passed for 120 yards and ran for over 200 in a 41-13 win.

"Any time you play a game like we played last time, you'd like another opportunity," Albert said. "I sure hope it's better the second time."

Three other local teams also opened the playoffs on a high note and will play second-round games later this week.

• Ford City rolled to a 41-14 win over Laurel and will make its bid for a third straight spot in the Class AA semifinals. The No. 2-seeded Sabers (10-0) will play No. 7 Riverside (9-1).

"Riverside is a big, strong team," Laurel coach Jerry Holzhauser said. "They'll have to prepare for Ford City's speed and all the diversity they have in their offense. I think it will be a good game."

• Springdale (8-1) shook off a slow start with two third-quarter touchdowns to defeat Chartiers-Houston, 21-0, in the first round of the Class A playoffs. Senior Nathan Zurisko accounted for all three scores as he threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.

"It was great to play at home in front of our fans," Springdale coach Chuck Wagner said. "They are very loyal. They are the Dynamos. Hopefully, we can keep going."

The Dynamos will face Western Beaver (9-1).

• Apollo-Ridge (6-4) advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in school history with a 38-14 win over Jefferson-Morgan. Now, the challenge gets tougher. The Vikings will take on Class A No. 2 seed Serra Catholic (10-0).

"We just got to go out there and do the best we can," Apollo-Ridge junior running back Derek Bandurak said.

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