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Montour convincingly claims WPIAL AAA crown over Knoch

Written by: on Saturday, November 26th, 2011

PITTSBURGH – Considering Montour’s last visit to Heinz Field ended in a 17-point loss, the idea of atonement may have been on the minds of the Spartans.

Lou Cerro wasn’t so sure that the focus of his football team this week was centered on that word.

“It wasn’t as much about atonement as it was about our kids wanting to play well at Heinz Field,” Cerro said.

Kent State recruit Julian Durden ran for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard jaunt after Knoch (12-1) pulled to within three scores in the third quarter to aid Montour (11-2) in a 42-14 victory over the Knights in the WPIAL AAA championship game Saturday afternoon from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

With the victory, the Spartans will take on District 10 champion Grove City, a 33-0 victor over Erie Cathedral Prep Friday night, in the PIAA quarterfinals next weekend at a site and time to be determined.

Montour’s victory marked its fifth WPIAL football championship in program history, but it had been a while since the Spartans had tasted victory in a championship game.  Between 1957 to 1964, Montour won four WPIAL titles, two in Class A and two in AA.  Saturday’s victory marked the Spartans’ first championship in Class AAA after defeats in 2007 and 2010.

Knoch was making its first WPIAL title game appearance since 1992, which ended in a 20-0 loss to eventual PIAA runner-up Blackhawk.

“It’s tremendously difficult for the season to come to an end, but what you saw down the stretch (of the season) in Saxonburg was more than just about football,” said Knights’ head coach Mike King.  “I’ve been in the game of football since age 7 (as a player/coach), and I’ve never seen the outpouring of support from the community (like this).  My heart is definitely warmed.”

The Saxonburg faithful packed the east side of bleachers of Heinz, but it was Montour who stole the spotlight before the large crowd.  Especially Durden.

The senior back, two years removed from playing for Pittsburgh North Catholic, entered the game with 5,189 career rushing yards and 61 rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons.  He added to both totals in a big way this day, rushing for 159 yards and the aforementioned four scores.

“It wasn’t that I wanted to take over the game,” Durden said.  “It was just that the opportunity was there and it was taken.”

After the Spartans jumped to a 7-0 lead through the first 12 minutes of play, Durden roared to life in the second period, scoring on touchdown runs of 1, 23 and 13 yards to help Montour build a 28-0 lead at halftime.  Durden’s third touchdown run was a thing of beauty.  Strung right, Durden saw a crack in the Knight pursuit and broke down the right hashes for the touchdown.

Knoch cut the deficit to 21 when Kyler Kenyon (11-of-21, 119 yards) hooked up with Alexander Strzeski on a 6-yard touchdown pass.  But on the first play after the kickoff, Durden was off to the races, taking away any and all momentum Knoch had gained with a 73-yard touchdown run to make it 35-7.

Aaron Reed invoked the mercy rule with 8:56 left in the third quarter on a 1-yard run after he returned an interception of Kenyon 34 yards to the Knight 1.  Reed lined up at the upback position and scored with little resistance.

“We’ve played tough defense all year,” King said.  “We knew they (Montour) had a potent offense.  They are a talented team and, I think, a state championship team.”

Montour took the early 7-0 lead on a Dillon Buechel 12-yard pass to Devin Wilson.  Wilson caught six passes for 96 yards and Buechel threw for 184 yards on a 10-of-17 day.

“This is a great achievement for us,” Buechel said. “We wanted to get Coach his first title at Montour” (Cerro won a pair of WPIAL crowns at Seton-LaSalle in 2002 and 2004).

Knoch was limited to just 59 rushing yards and 190 yards of offense.  Andrew Rumburg-Goodlin paced the ground game with 26 yards on 10 carries and Kenyon added another 17 yards on eight carries.  Kenyon capped the game scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The Saxonburg community was brought closer due to tragedy that occurred at the onset of the WPIAL playoffs.  Cheerleader Alexis Summers was killed in a one-car crash, and her boyfriend, Rumburg-Goodlin, was the leading rusher on Knoch’s team.  To reach Heinz, Knoch defeated West Allegheny, Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Regional, programs which won a combined 11 WPIAL championships.

So what would the legacy of this team clad in blue and gold be?

“I’ve got one word when it comes to what the legacy of this team will be, and it’s ‘love’,” King said.  “It’s love.  It’s what everything should be about in sports.”

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