Neely stars as Frazier tops Serra
McKEESPORT – Frazier High head football coach Larry Wilson had a big problem heading into Saturday’s game against Serra Catholic.
Starting running back Craig Neely was not available because of one-game suspension, levied after he was ejected in the opening game loss to Cornell.
Without a tailback, Wilson called on senior wide receiver Justin Knight to fill the void.
Knight was met the challenge, running 24 times for 149 yards and a touchdown.
The converted wide-out led the visiting Commodores (1-1) to a 14-7 nonconference victory over Serra.
Most impressive was the fact Knight never before played before played running back.
“(Knight) has always been a wide receiver … ,” Wilson said.
The score didn’t tell the entire story as Frazier dominated, racking up 300 yards offense while allowing Serra just 85 yards.
In the face of the Commodores’ defensive onslaught, the Eagles averaged less than a yard per carry.
Still, Frazier put itself in jeopardy just 40 seconds into the game as Eagles’ defensive end Bill Peifer stepped in front of a T.J. Martinak pass and returned the interception 23 yards for a touchdown.
Frazier answered when Martinak connected with wide receivers Steve Erdley and Ryan Keebler to reach Serra’s 15 yard line. Knight carried the ball the final 15 yards off right tackle for the touchdown.
On the extra point attempt, Martinak fielded a badly snapped ball, ran to the right, and dove in for two points and an 8-7 lead. “I give (Martinak) credit for shaking off the early mistake to play the strong game that he did.” Wilson noted.
Martinak wasn’t finished as he plunged in from two yards out with a minute remaining in the half.
Four plays earlier, the senior quarterback scrambled 78 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, it was called back because of a holding penalty.
The extra point attempt failed, giving the Commodores a 14-7 halftime lead.
Frazier needed little else as hard running by Knight and a smothering defense carried the Commodore’s to victory.
Serra launched one fourth-quarter threat after a Commodores’ player fumbled on a punt return and Eagles linebacker Nick Hatala covered the ball at the Frazier 22 yard line.
Serra’s chance to win the game was dashed as quarterback Tim Stash threw an incomplete pass on fourth and three.
Serra failed to reach midfield on its final two drives.
“This is the momentum that we needed going into the Monessen next week,” Wilson said. “I don’t care if we won 14-7 or we if should have won 50-0 or 60-0. A win is a win and I am so proud of my boys”.
Notes: Frazier running back Andy Natale had a 60 yard punt return for an apparent touchdown called back because of offsetting personal foul penalties. It was the Commodores’ first road win since 2000. Frazier will open Tri-County South Conference play Friday at home against Monessen.