THREE SPRINGS — Moshannon Valley senior Joe Bacher waited his turn behind standout running Jon Dale for years.
On Friday night, the senior answered the call as he rushed 55 times for 347 yards and five scores.
Unfortunately, the Black Knights fell on the wrong side of an offensive shootout with Southern Huntingdon by a 52-41 score in the season-opener.
“We scored 41 points. Most times when you score 41 points — you’re winning football games,” Moshannon Valley coach Mike Keith said. “We just have to fix things on defense — try to be in better position.”
The two teams would take turns scoring with the Black Knights getting things started by finding the end zone first.
“We actually thought whoever had the ball last was going to win the game,” Southern Huntingdon coach Ryan Garlock said. “But, I think we actually wore them (Moshannon Valley) out a little bit in the second half.”
However, when the Rockets forced Mo Valley to punt late in the third, the back-and-forth scoring that had been going on, was over as Southern Huntingdon punched in a touchdown to take a two score lead.
The Black Knights continued to score but they could never catch up.
“They (coaches) kind of prepared me for it (to run the ball a lot),” Bacher said. “But, I think we need conditioned more because I was gassed.”
With Rockets leading 30-27 following a Scott Garlock 4-yard run at 4:17 of the third, the Knights would look to respond but were forced to punt after Ben Murawski’s third down pass fell incomplete.
Bacher’s punt sailed 46 yards into the end zone for a touchback — setting the Rockets up at their own 20.
Southern’s sophomore speedster Kendrel Marino, who had been held in check up to that point by the Moshannon Valley defense with just 17 yards on six attempts, finally broke free on a 63-yard burst down the left sideline.
“All we needed was a stop, and we just didn’t get it,” Keith said.
The Marino run set the Rockets up at the MV 12 where three plays later, Kadin Moore took a reverse handoff from Garlock and raced the needed yardage to paydirt.
The Southern Huntingdon touchdown turned its three point edge into an 11-point difference (38-27} following Garlock’s two-point conversion completion to Haiden Garner with 1:02 left in the third.
Bacher would answer right back on the ensuing possession as he scored on a 35-yard run. Dylan Honan’s extra point would get the Black Knights as close as they would be the rest of the way at 38-34.
“That’s (55 attempts) a lot of carries for a football game,” Keith said. “But, he kept pounding. He’s a hard runner. He’s not going to get out of somebody’s way — he’s going to run you over. He ran hard and that’s what we need every game from him.”
Following Marino’s second TD run of the day, Bacher would cross the goal line for the fifth time — this time from just 1 yard out as the score moved to 46-41 after Honan’s extra point.
With 3:25 left in the game, the Knights would attempt an onsides-kick. However, Honan’s attempt only traveled four yards and the Rockets took possession at the Mo Valley 44.
One play is all that Garlock would need as the senior got loose for a 44-yard sprint for the final touchdown of the evening.
“We’re pretty good up front (on defense). We’re big and we’re veterans up front,” Keith said. “They were pretty disciplined, but I think towards the end of the game they got tired and they got out of position a couple of times. For the most part, we held them in check.”
Murawski would be intercepted by Moore on the ensuing Moshannon Valley opportunity.
Southern Huntingdon would turn the ball over on downs — giving the ball back to the Black Knights, who made it down to the SH 28 before time ran out.
The game was also a contrast in two styles as Moshannon Valley pounded the ball — churning out yardage and taking plenty of time off the clock with long drives. Meanwhile, Southern Huntingdon scored on quick, explosive short drives.
In the first half, the Black Knights ran 44 plays to just 10 by the Rockets. However, SH held a 22-21 lead at the half due to their big play ability.
Bacher scored twice in the opening half on runs of 1 and 4 yards as he ran 31 times for 172 yards while Scott McCoy would earn the other TD as he powered his way in from 4 yards out.
“We did what we said we were going to — we were going to run the ball,” Keith said. “We did that all night long. Offensively, we were fine.”
On the other side, the Rockets would get on the board on an 87-yard kickoff return by Wyant Rowe, and two connections from Garlock to Garner on passes of 65 and 50 yards.
Moshannon Valley hosts West Branch next Friday.