After upset wins, Knoch and Greensburg Salem look to remain perfect in GAC
Some fans may look at last week’s results and call Greensburg Salem’s and Knoch’s victories surprises.
While they were considered upsets — Greensburg Salem defeating No. 5 Gateway, 9-6, in overtime, and Knoch beating No. 6 Franklin Regional, 22-7 — Greensburg Salem coach Dave Keefer and Knoch coach Mike King were not surprised. In fact, they expected to win.
No. 8 Knoch (1-0, 1-0) plays at Greensburg Salem (1-0, 1-0) on Friday in a first-place battle in the WPIAL Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference, and both coaches know the importance of staying focused.
“I felt we were good enough to win,” Keefer said. “The players executed exactly what they were coached. They trusted us.
“It was a lot of fun, but that’s one game. We have at least eight more games to play. We let them celebrate after the game and then told them to focus on the next game.”
Greensburg Salem’s defense shut down the speedy Gateway offense. The Gators’ only touchdown came on a fumble return.
Keefer said defensive linemen Grant Slezak and Derek Berberick played very well. It was Berberick who tackled a Gateway running back short of the goal line in overtime.
“We needed someone to make a play and he did,” said Keefer, who also praised the play of linebacker Sean Dean, running back Connor Forkey, quarterback Brady Mason and linebacker Teegan Hahn. “It was a team effort. Everyone played well.”
Ryan Collette sealed the win by booting a 21-yard field goal. Keefer showed confidence in his kicker despite Collette having an extra point blocked and missing a potential game-winning field goal in the final seconds of regulation.
Knoch got two touchdowns from Cody Milsom, and Asa Adams returned a free kick after the Knoch defense recorded a safety to erase a 7-6 deficit. Quarterback Dan Farinelli was 7 of 10 for 134 yards.
Knoch returned seven starters on each side of the ball. Farinelli threw for 1,174 yards in 2013 and Milsom rushed for 819 yards.
“One thing about a Mike King-coached team, they don’t beat themselves,” Keefer said. “They play physical, they are disciplined and they compete. They are very sound. It’s a program you’d like to pattern your team after.”
The Knights’ defense is led by first-team all-conference nose guard San Whalen. He is flanked by ends J.J. Curry and Ty Gornick.
“All our hard work over the summer paid off,” King said. “They are really focused on the season and were focused on Franklin Regional. After the safety and kickoff return, the players felt the game was theirs.
“That’s what happens when you have a veteran team. Winning last week doesn’t mean anything this week.”
Greensburg Salem opened 2013 with a 20-14 win against Knoch. King said Greensburg Salem is sound fundamentally and plays great defense.
“I’m sure they’re fired up after beating Gateway,” King said. “They’re coming into the game with a lot of momentum.”