Greensburg Salem records win No. 700 by edging Knoch

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Friday, September 18, 2020 | 10:33 PM


At last, 700.

Greensburg Salem crept to the doorstep of a milestone victory late last season but could not get it done in the playoffs. The team waited about 10 months to take another crack at it but fell short last week in the season opener.

The Golden Lions were tired of waiting for their 700th win to come and finally nailed down the elusive mark with a 13-12 victory over Knoch on Friday night in a Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference game at Offutt Field.

The Golden Lions (1-1, 1-1) were thrilled to flip the number on their all-time wins board on a monument outside the stadium gate. They ran off the field like they had just won a championship.

“It’s getting that monkey off your back,” Greensburg Salem coach Dave Keefer said. “It’s great for our program. The kids that are here now and the families who have been through the program in the past.”

Knoch, which did all it could to avoid being the team that allowed the milestone to happen, fell to 0-2, 0-2.

That makes it five WPIAL programs with 700 or more wins. The others to come into the season with 700 or more were Jeannette (756), New Castle (746), Aliquippa (734) and Washington (710).

Greensburg Salem is 700-390-39 in its 100-year history and becomes the 14th program in the state to post 700 or more victories.

“These guys are my brothers,” Golden Lions junior lineman Billy McChesney said. “When you have such a tight bond, to win it with these guys, it’s unbelievable.”

The Golden Lions defensive line shined in the second half, led by McChesney, who had a key sack and helped slow down Knoch’s triple-option offense.

Junior Ahkeem White had a 63-yard touchdown catch and helped seal the victory with an interception with 1 minute, 23 seconds to play.

“Defense won this game for us,” Keefer said. “It’s hard to simulate that offense. Billy had a huge game for us.”

The motivation for the benchmark win came from the team’s previous two losses.

In last year’s playoffs, Blackhawk prevented the Golden Lions from reaching 700 — and advancing to the semifinals — with a 36-7 win.

Last week, Plum upended the Golden Lions, 36-13.

“We played a lot better this week,” said Greensburg Salem quarterback Hayden Teska, who completed 9 of 22 passes for 195 yards and two scores with one interception.

In the teams’ first meeting since 2015 — they were formerly conference opponents — Greensburg Salem struck first. Teska delivered a perfect spiral down the far sideline to White, and the receiver took it to the end zone for a 63-yard scoring play.

Knoch responded with a 10-play, 78-yard drive capped by a 1-yard run by Keith Washington, who saw time in the wildcat. The extra point was blocked.

The Knights took advantage of a roughing-the-passer penalty to set up their second score. Eight consecutive runs allowed them to take the lead. Washington ran in from the 1, and it was 12-7 after the conversion run was stuffed.

It stayed that way until halftime. The Golden Lions drove to the Knoch 21 late in the half, but after a couple of deep throws, the second on fourth down, they came up empty.

“It was tough knowing we didn’t get a touchdown there,” Keefer said. “That was like getting punched in the gut. So we challenged the kids, and they responded.”

The Golden Lions forced a fumble on Knoch’s opening drive of the second half, and Jayden Stevens recovered at the Knoch 41. Five plays later, Teska found Donavin Waller on a quick-hitter across the middle for a 16-yard touchdown. Greensburg Salem was back in front, but only by one as the extra point missed wide and it was 13-12.

McChesney forced a fumble late in the third, and JC Wallish recovered for the Golden Lions, but they were forced to punt after reaching the Knights’ 42.

“The coaches gave us a great speech at halftime,” McChesney said.

Knoch kept getting chances in the fourth. A horse-collar tackle gave the Knights new life midway through the fourth. But the Golden Lions defense stiffened time and again.

“The first half, we had a lot of stupid penalties,” said Greensburg Salem running back Alex Briggs, who ran for 54 yards. “We really played better in the second half. We have wanted this for so long.”

Knoch’s Keagan Fraser went down with an apparent leg injury with 2:25 to play, moments after he topped the 100-yard rushing mark. He was helped off the field and did not return. Fraser ran for 102 yards on 19 carries.

“This was a typical Knoch-Greensburg Salem game,” Knoch coach Brandon Mowry said. “Tough, hard fought game. We were able to do things with our run game early and establish the line of scrimmage. They made some halftime adjustments and we had to make ours.”

After a late punt, Knoch had one last chance, but White stepped in front of a J.J. Szebalskie pass for an interception. The turnover allowed the Golden Lions to line up in victory formation with about a minute to play.

“Ahkeem is one of those guys who is capable of a lot,” Keefer said. “Tonight, it all clicked for him.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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