Knoch, Highlands work up ‘a good dislike’ for each other

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 | 6:13 PM


The Knoch and Highlands football teams are on opposite sides of the WPIAL Class 4A Northwest Eight Conference.

Led by first-year coach Brandon Mowry, who spent the past 15 years in various assistant positions with the program, the Knights have jumped out to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2012. On the other hand, the Golden Rams haven’t won a game and have struggled to score in the first three weeks.

But, when the two teams meet on Friday at Highlands’ Golden Rams Stadium, anything can happen. The two rivals have been playing each other since 1984, and Knoch holds a 19-15 series edge.

“We’ve played them all the way back to the time when I was a kid,” Mowry said. “There is always something special with this game, especially with us being so close in proximity. It’s a good rivalry. It’s a good dislike, I would say. The kids all know each other pretty well, so it’s going to be an intense battle, I think.”

Both teams came into the game last year without a win and the Knights squeaked out a one-touchdown victory. This year, the Knights are coming into the game as strong as ever. They have only allowed 27 points and have scored the fourth most points in Class 4A.

Senior running back Matt Goodlin has been at the center of that success, running for 579 yards and eight touchdowns on 63 carries. After running for 298 yards against Beaver last week, he’s ranked second in the WPIAL in rushing yards. Highlands coach Dom Girardi believes stopping him and the Knoch triple-option offense will be the key to the game.

“We have to slow him down,” Girardi said. “He is a very good running back, and they have a very good offensive line, and they know what fits them best. We can’t match their size, so we have to match them with intensity, good tackling and physical play.”

In their Week 2 Northern Eight matchup with Blackhawk, the Golden Rams took a turn for the better. Quarterback Chandler Thimons threw for 171 yards and a touchdown, and senior Johnny Crise had a breakout game. He caught six passes for 123 yards after being held to totals of 16 and 6 yards in their first two games.

While they have struggled at times this season, Girardi said their matchup at Blackhawk was probably the best game they’ve played. With the emergence of Crise after a rough start to the season, Goodlin and the Knights know who to look out for on Friday.

“I think we definitely have to stop Johnny,” Goodlin said. “If we can do that and stop their run game, then our defense will be solid.”

For these two schools that are located about 13 miles apart, it’s more than a game. A lot of the players know each other from other sports and from seeing each other around town. Not only does the game have a special meaning for the schools, it brings out a crowd, as well.

“With Knoch coming down here, it’s a game I always look forward to,” Crise said.

“With the two schools being so close together, a lot of people come to the game. A lot of people know (one another), you see these kids at the movie theaters and the Wal-Marts and stuff like that, so it’s personal.”

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

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