Knoch defense rises to occasion, slows Southmoreland ground game in shutout win

Friday, September 15, 2023 | 10:56 PM

Knoch senior lineman Bennett Shaw remembers walking the halls of school last season, his team in the middle of what would be a 1-9 campaign, and, as he put it, people making fun of the football players.

Nobody is making fun of the Knights now. In fact, football at Knoch is fun again.

Behind Shaw and a commanding defensive effort, the Knights shut out previously unbeaten Southmoreland, 27-0, before a packed house at Knoch Stadium.

Knoch’s defense held WPIAL leading rusher Da’sjon Craggette to 17 yards on 19 carries, improving to 4-0 for the first time since 2019.

When the Scotties looked to Kadin Keefer to generate offense through the air, Shaw, Wyatt Foster and Ethan Alwine were constantly in the backfield causing havoc.

“It was really a team effort, completely,” Shaw said. “Everybody had to do their job. Realistically, we came into this game with a mindset. We said we were going to win, and we executed. We got after it tonight.”

Craggette’s biggest gain of the night was 7 yards. He was held to negative yardage on seven of his 19 carries.

“That was a relentless defensive effort,” Knoch coach Tim Burchett said. “Got to give credit to my defensive coordinator, Robby Moss, and my secondary coach, Mike Hill. All the credit in the world. (Craggette) was averaging 13 yards a carry. I don’t know how many he had. He’s a good player. We played well.”

Knoch’s defense set the tone before the amped-up crowd early, forcing the Scotties into a three-and-out to open the game. After a short punt, the Knights marched 33 yards for the opening score, a 2-yard Tony Nicolazzo run.

Keefer tried to keep the Scotties in the game, guiding them on a lengthy drive that chewed up almost nine minutes between the first and second quarters. But the drive stalled deep in Knights territory with a fourth-down stop.

From there, Knoch quarterback Codi Mullen led an equally long drive capped by a 44-yard dart up the middle to make it 14-0.

Another defensive stop, forcing the Scotties to punt from their own end zone, left Knoch with another short field. Mullen connected with receiver Kaden Spencer for a 27-yard strike to make it 20-0 at halftime.

The Knights kept up their relentless defensive pressure to preserve the shutout.

“Some basic pass protection we saw that we thought we could get pressure with our defensive front,” Burchett said. “We played base defense all night. We didn’t call exotic blitzes all night. We thought we understood their pass protections, and we attacked it.”

Southmoreland, which averaged more than 200 yards rushing coming into play Friday night, was held to 3 yards.

“We’ve obviously got to be more physical,” Scotties coach Tim Bukowski said. “They took it to us, both sides of the ball tonight. It was obvious. They beat us up up front, and we didn’t have an answer.”

Mullen finished 10 of 18 for 99 yards and added 98 yards rushing to lead the Knights offense.

But it was the defense that will have people buzzing in the halls at school this coming week.

“Coming back from a 1-9 season, when we thought we were going to be good last year, it was a huge setback last year,” Shaw said. “We just got after it this year. We got in the weight room, we said it’s on us this time and people, I think, respect us for it.”

Knoch concludes nonconference play next week vs. Elizabeth Forward, and the Scotties meet Deer Lakes.

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