Kittanning needs overtime to put away Knoch
KITTANNING – Kittanning sure made things interesting Friday night. After blowing leads of 14-0 and 21-7, the Wildcats needed a fortunate bounce in overtime to beat Knoch in both teams’ Greater Allegheny Conference opener.
Safety Kraig Walker picked off Mark Rupert’s pass in the end zone on second down from the 2-yard line to end the game and give the Wildcats a much-deserved 28-21 vicory. Rupert’s pass hit wide receiver Curtis Compton in the hands, but the ball deflected into the air and right into the arms of Walker.
“I told the kids somebody had to make a play,” Kittanning head coach Sam Panchik said. “Kraig Walker made it. We may have got a lucky bounce, but we’ll sure take it.”
The win was enormous for the Wildcats, who start the conference season with a crucial victory.
“Without a doubt this is huge,” Panchik said. “We haven’t won our first conference game in some time. Once you get that first win, you’re on your way.”
Quarterback Jeremy DeLuca scored on a one-yard scamper on third down in overtime to give Kittanning a 28-21 lead.
“We worked hard all week,” DeLuca said. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Kittanning appeared to have the game won when Brad Bothell scored on a five-yard run with 7:04 left in the game to give the Wildcats a 21-7 advantage. But the Knights stormed back, scoring 14 points in a span of 1:15 with under five minutes left to play.
Rupert led the charge, completing 7-of-10 passes for 101 yards and the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Rupert, who finished with 166 yards, hit Compton on the sideline for a 27-yard strike that tied the game at 21 with 2:03 left.
“He pretty much orchestrated the whole thing,” Knoch head coach Mike King said of his senior quarterback. Panchik was impressed with Rupert’s performance. “You take him off the field and they aren’t even in the game,” Panchik said. “He’s a real good quarterback.” Kittanning’s defense held Knoch in check for over three quarters, but the Knights’ late surge was enough to make it close.
“We hung in there,” King said. “It was a like a 15-round heavyweight fight. We came up short. It’s just one of those things.”
Knoch shot itself in the foot early, losing two fumbles in the first seven minutes of the game that Kittanning converted into 14 points. “We play in a very tough conference. You can’t make those kind of mistakes and expect to win,” King said.
Kittanning defensive tackle Abe Cone recovered Jamison Dohn’s fumble on Knoch’s first possession, and the Wildcats capitalized seven plays later when Joe Acerni scored from five yards out.
On the Knights’ ensuing possession, Rupert made a bad option pitch to running back Zach Ferraro and Brad Wynkoop recovered at the 31. Three plays later, Brad Bothell scored on a 15-yard run up the middle to stake Kittanning to an early 14-0 lead. Knoch scored early in the second on Compton’s seven-yard reception to make it 14-7 at halftime.