Led by special senior class, Knoch off to best start since 2012

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Saturday, September 14, 2019 | 11:06 PM


With an undefeated start, two defensive shutouts and a stout running game, Knoch is having one of its best seasons in recent memory under first-year coach Brandon Mowry.

But it didn’t just come out of nowhere.

Last year, the Knights lost their first three games of the season. They went on to win five of their last seven but missed the playoffs due to a tiebreaker in the Northwest Eight Conference.

“A lot of these guys played last year and that left a bad taste in their mouth,” Mowry said. “We beat New Castle, had a three-way tie with Montour, and we still didn’t get in. So that was their motivation.”

When Mowry took over the program in the offseason, after spending 15 years as an assistant coach with Knoch, he knew he had a special senior class coming through the system. So, he pulled them aside late in the summer and talked to them about what they wanted to accomplish.

“They want a home playoff game, and they want more,” Mowry said. “They are hungry and they are out to win. They want to capitalize on everything we do.”

That motivation to host a playoff game, and more, has shown throughout their first four games this season.

Led by Matt Goodlin, who has rushed for 708 yards and nine touchdowns, the No. 3 Knights (4-0) have outscored their opponents 111-27 behind their triple-option attack. But their offense hasn’t even reached its peak yet.

With Scott Fraser, Brady McKee, and Jared Schrecengost, receivers who are all 6-foot-2 or taller, on the outside, the Knights passing game has the potential to be dangerous. I has been, at times, throughout this season. It’s just a matter of how often they go to it.

Quarterback Kam Grassi hasn’t attempted more than five passes in any game this season. In two of those games, his only completion went for a touchdown. The Knights travel to winless Ambridge (0-4) on Friday.

“Our offense is designed for when people starting keying on the run and the safeties start creeping up, that’s when we go down the field,” Mowry said. “So, usually when we complete passes it’s for big plays because safeties and defensive backs are flying up and our guys are getting behind them. But it’s a week-to-week thing, and we’re getting better at it.”

Not only is their offense solid, but the defense is one of the best in the WPIAL. There are only a handful of teams that have given up fewer points than the Knights. Twenty of the 27 points they have allowed came in their Week 1 matchup with Blackhawk. The defense has only given up one touchdown since then.

“I haven’t played with a defense this good, ever,” Goodlin said. “Everyone is clicking. We trust each other. Everyone knows each other’s job. I think that’s our biggest thing.”

The Knights are 4-0 for the first time since 2012, but they aren’t resting on their laurels.

“We just gotta keep working,” Grassi said. “Day in and day out, we gotta keep coming to practice and working hard against each other. We gotta continue to work on things, keep watching film and know what we’re doing.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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