Deer Lakes holds off Knoch’s furious rally

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Friday, September 30, 2022 | 10:51 PM


The Deer Lakes and Knoch football teams put the pedal to the metal in the fourth quarter of their Allegheny 6 Conference opener Friday at Deer Lakes’ Lancers Stadium.

The teams combined for 38 points on five touchdowns over the final 12 minutes. The Knights scored 22 points and the Lancers 16.

But Deer Lakes came away from the hectic finish with a 37-36 victory.

“That’s a high school football game,” Deer Lakes coach Tim Burk said.

“That’s the way it should be. It was a great environment and atmosphere. Hats off to Knoch for never quitting. Those are the things we are trying to teach our kids, to play to the end of the game and play four quarters. We needed a game like this to learn how to win in a tight situation late. As much as (Knoch) didn’t waver, neither did we. They continued to battle, weathered a storm there in the fourth quarter, and never quit. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The Lancers improved to 3-3 overall and avenged last year’s 21-13 nonconference loss to the Knights.

Knoch lost its second game of the season by one point (Indiana 32-31) and fell to 0-6. The Knights return to Lancers Stadium next week for their homecoming game against Shady Side Academy.

“This one hurts, I’m not going to lie,” Knights coach Tim Burchett said. “But this was not the same old Knoch. This was a resilient bunch who punched and counter-punched all night long. You have to hand it to Deer Lakes. They finished when they needed to, and we didn’t play well enough on defense to win the game. I told the kids I had two emotions. I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win, but I am incredibly proud of their resiliency. There’s a lot of good stuff to take from this.”

It appeared Deer Lakes was on its way to victory after touchdown runs of 19 and 5 runs by sophomore Zier Williams gave the Lancers a 37-22 lead with eight minutes left.

But Knoch responded as junior quarterback Aiden Jones, who came in late in the first quarter when starter Codi Mullen went down with an injury, threw a pair of touchdown passes — 22 yards to Exavier Johnson and 21 yards to Jack Bauman — to close the gap to one at 37-36.

Deer Lakes’ final drive, which started with 4:52 left, moved the ball to the 33 before it punted with just over two minutes on the clock.

Knoch had one final chance, but it had 91 yards to cover. Jones threw three incompletions before Ryan Cochran intercepted Jones to seal the victory.

“We did everything we could to keep the lead and win the game,” said Williams, who finished the game with 20 carries for 87 yards.

“It took everyone. We had to stay calm and continue to play the way we know we can right to the end,” Williams said.

Jones completed 14 of 28 pass for 209 yards and three touchdowns.

Knights senior wideout Jake Murphy caught six passes for 144 yards, including one on an 83-yard hookup with Jones in the third quarter.

“Codi obviously is an important part of the offense,” Burchett said. “He lights the fire. He’s our point guard. Aidan, at first, was a little skittish being his first varsity game as a junior. But he settled in and did some really great things for us. That speaks to his ability, and it speaks to our system. The system works, and we can do some really good things with it.”

Deer Lakes junior signal caller Derek Burk finished 11 of 18 passing for 232 yards. He added a 4-yard TD run in the first half.

Burk’s second touchdown pass to Aidan Fletcher, with 3:45 left in the third quarter, gave the Lancers the lead they would not relinquish.

Fletcher caught three passes in all for 91 yards.

Knoch, which trailed 14-6 at halftime, tied the score earlier in the quarter on a Jones 8-yard run.

Things started out very well for the Knights as they took the opening kickoff and marched 68 yards in 10 plays – six runs, four passes – and Mullen carried it the final yard for the Knights touchdown and the early lead.

Deer Lakes will go for three wins in a row next Friday at Valley.

“It feels good to start conference play off on the right foot,” Burk said. “We’re glad to be where we’re at right now. There still is a long way to go with four games left, but I am really proud of the way my guys pulled out the win in what was a really good football game.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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