Knoch gets past rival Highlands to stay undefeated

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Friday, September 13, 2019 | 10:37 PM


Knoch got off to a slow start in the first half, but its undefeated season is still alive.

Led by another solid showing from Matt Goodlin, who finished with 96 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, the No. 5 Knights cruised to a 24-0 Northwest Eight Conference victory over Highlands on Friday at Golden Rams Stadium.

“This was huge, honestly,” Knoch quarterback Kam Grassi, who finished with 106 total yards, said. “Knoch and Highlands have had this longtime rivalry, and everyone is always so excited about it. So it was great to come down here and get a (win).”

The Knights (4-0, 3-0) improved to 20-15 in the all-time series and have won two straight against the Golden Rams.

But, it wasn’t easy.

After stopping Highlands (0-4, 0-2) on its first offensive drive, thanks to a sack on fourth-and-14, the Knights stitched together nine straight running plays using three runners to get to the Highlands’ 23-yard-line.

Then, Grassi threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-4 Scott Fraser in the back of the end zone.

“I don’t think they were really expecting it,” Grassi said. “With Scott, all I really had to do was throw it up because he’s a great wide receiver, and he went up and got it.”

The rivals relied on their ground games through the first half, but stout defensive performances led to five changes of possession without a score.

Then, Knoch had a breakthrough.

Thanks to an 18-yard run from Goodlin and a 28-yard run from Grassi, Knoch was within field goal range with 3.7 seconds left in the half.

Justin Tristani’s 37-yard field goal gave the Knights a 10-0 lead.

“That was big at the end of the half to put us up two scores,” Mowry said. “Justin has come a long way since the early summer.”

The rivalry took a turn in the second half, and the Knights capitalized on two Highlands special teams errors to take control of the game.

The Knights punted after their first drive stalled, but caught a break when Highlands punt returner Brock White couldn’t make the catch. The Knights took over on the 25-yard line, and Grassi scored four plays later.

Four plays after that, Knoch blocked a Highlands punt attempt, and Matt Goodlin scored on a 5-yard run with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter to put the game away.

“We weren’t really lined up on the blocked punt right, so I think we got a little lucky,” Mowry said. “I think (Adam) Stobert blocked it and Brady (McKee) picked it up. That was big in shutting that drive down. The kids have just been opportunistic this year.”

Before tonight, Goodlin had run for more than 100 yards in Knoch’s first three games. Highlands is the first team to hold him below that mark.

“They (Knoch) are very, very, good offensively and for the most part I feel like our defense rose to the occasion,” Highlands coach Dom Girardi said. “We just weren’t able to match it on offense or special teams.”

Next week, Knoch plays at Ambridge and Highlands plays at Beaver.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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