Demetris McKnight’s big game lifts New Castle over Shaler

Friday, August 23, 2019 | 11:32 PM

In a tit-for-tat football game, New Castle coach Joe Cowart knew who had to get the ball with time ticking away.

The call for a designed pass to Demetris McKnight shouldn’t have surprised anyone. McKnight scored on runs of 40 and 73 yards in the first half and had an 83-yard punt return called back by a penalty.

McKnight needed only a little bit of open space to stun Shaler for a 34-27 win.

Red Hurricanes quarterback Mike Wells faked a handoff and dumped the ball off to McKnight, who broke a tackle and outran the Titans defense for the 42-yard score with 8 seconds left.

“My sophomore year against Highlands in overtime I had another play like that to win it, so I just knew I had to keep my head and keep working to help my team,” McKnight said. “I’m glad everyone had great blocks all night to give me a way to find the end zone.”

McKnight finished the game with 156 rushing yards, 65 receiving yards, 35 passing yards and three touchdowns.

“I hope no one notices (Demetris), because that way he can just keep playing like he did tonight,” Cowart said. “He’s a dynamic athlete. He’s written a story for himself. He had a suspension from the team last year, and here tonight he has the fumble. All he does is stick to it and keeps doing things right on and off the field.”

McKnight’s only low point of the game was in the opening drive of the second half.

Up 21-6, New Castle could have put Shaler away with another score, but McKnight fumbled in the backfield, and the Titans recovered the loose ball.

“A lot of teams with that halftime deficit wouldn’t come back like that,” Shaler coach Jim Ryan said. “That’s hard for a high school kid to push through. We’ve also seen our guys do it before with two fourth-quarter comebacks last year, so they know how to fight adversity.”

The recovery sparked two long Shaler drives that ended with Darin Mizgorski touchdown runs of 1 and 5 yards.

Mizgorski also made a costly mistake that he recovered from. Shaler’s quarterback forced a pass near the goal line pylon and into double coverage. Wells jumped the pass for a 100-yard interception return in the second quarter.

“Darin is the kind of kid who can bounce back from anything, and he didn’t let that bother him,” Ryan said. “He’s the steady force of our offense. He settled down, so the guys around him settled down, too.”

Mizgorski also threw touchdown passes of 52 yards to Joey Impavido in the first quarter and 5 yards to Shayn Skelley with less than three minutes left, leaving New Castle with a chance to score before time expired.

Wells was poised under center despite playing in his first varsity game and threw for 118 yards.

New Castle nearly gave up two touchdowns in the first three minutes of the game, but a red zone defensive stand made Wells believe they could win.

“I was so proud of my team,” Wells said. “We talked all week about composure, so I knew we could do it.”

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