Trib HSSN Football Team of the Week for Week Zero

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Monday, August 26, 2019 | 9:45 PM


Every team that played a Week Zero game wanted to begin the new high school football season with a bang.

New Castle did just that, making big plays on both sides of the ball before scoring late to win at Shaler, 34-27.

“It was definitely a pleased group on the way home,” coach Joe Cowart said. “We talk about enjoying the victories with our guys. All high school teams work long and hard, so you have to enjoy the victories.

“But there were a lot of tired guys on our bus, too. They had to earn that victory.”

The Red Hurricane earned the victory when Michael Wells connected with Demetris McKnight on a 42-yard touchdown pass with 8 seconds left in regulation to break a 27-27 tie.

“We saw that they were dropping back in a prevent-style defense,” Cowart said. “We actually wanted McKnight to go streaking down the middle past the middle linebacker, but Mike told Demetris to check down over the ball, and Mike got the ball to Demetris and the rest was effort and determination on Demetris’ part.”

It was an appropriate big-play finish for two ‘Canes who were making them all night.

McKnight rushed for 167 yards and scored two other touchdowns on runs of 40 and 73 yards, and Wells was 8 of 12 passing for 118 yards and scored on a 1-yard run and a 100-yard interception return.

“Very impressed with Mike Wells in his first varsity football game,” Cowart said. “I thought he managed the offense well and attacked in the pass game when opportunities presented themselves. The 100-yard interception was a strong athlete making a smart read on the fade stop and knowing what was coming.

“Demetris is electric with the ball in his hands. That’s a veteran Shaler defense, and I am proud of the men up front who paved some alleys for Demetris and presented opportunities for him. And when there was daylight, Demetris made the most out of his chances.”

The victory meant nothing in the standings, but it was a good start for a team that was up and down a year ago and finished under .500.

“I think if they are keeping score, you want to win,” Cowart said. “It is good for our guys to win a tight battle against a quality opponent. It should bode well as the season moves forward to know that our team can handle the peaks and valleys of games and respond the right way.”

The fight for another trip to the postseason begins Friday with the start of Class 4A Northwest Eight Conference play for New Castle. The Red Hurricane finished 3-4 in the conference a year ago and opens at home against Montour.

“We need to get better — much better — if we want to compete in our league and in 4A,” Cowart said. “Keep our heads down and get significantly better. We have our full focus on Montour this week.”

Trib HSSN Football Player of the WeekKy’Ron Craggette of Connellsville

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