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A-K Valley football notebook: It’s win and in for Kiski Area, Valley

November 14, 2018

A pair of Alle-Kiski Valley football teams face simple equations for making the WPIAL playoffs Friday: If Kiski Area (3-6, 2-4) beats Armstrong (4-5, 2-4) in a Class 5A Northern Conference game, and if Valley (3-6, 2-3) wins at East Allegheny (5-4, 2-3) in a Class 2A Allegheny Conference game, they’ll earn postseason spots.

The math gets complicated after that.

A loss to East Allegheny would eliminate Valley, but Kiski Area still has postseason options if the Cavaliers fall to Armstrong. If Fox Chapel (2-7, 1-5) beats Shaler (3-6, 2-4), Kiski Area would beat out both teams for fifth place based on head-to-head victories over both. A Shaler victory would put Kiski Area in competition for the wild-card spot with the other sixth-place teams in Class 5A.

Knoch (4-5, 3-4) also remains alive in the Class 4A Northwest Eight. Wins by South Fayette over Montour (3-6, 3-3) and New Castle (4-5, 2-4) over Ambridge would force a three-way tie between Knoch, Montour and New Castle that would get decided by tiebreaker points.

Montour is -4, Knoch is -12 and New Castle is -15 in tiebreaker points entering the week, so Knoch would need a Montour loss by nine points or more and a New Castle win by two points or fewer to prevail.

“It’s been out of our hands since the New Castle game (a 24-21 Knoch win in Week 7), so there’s really nothing we can do,” Knoch coach Frank Whalen said. “We had to go down to New Castle and get a win, which is the first time Knoch maybe ever actually went down to Taggart Stadium and beat them on their field. That was a monumental effort that we were able to do there, and now it’s just closing out the season with two nonconference games.”

Rivalry renewed

Freeport and Knoch last played more than a decade ago, but the Butler County neighbors were discussing a two-year renewal of their rivalry for Week Zero last offseason.

The WPIAL made those conversations moot by scheduling a Week 9 matchup between the Yellowjackets and Knights for the next two seasons, the first of which will take place Friday at Knoch.

“It’s going to be a healthy rivalry type of thing,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “These kids probably weren’t even born yet to understand when we go back to play them. They’re our neighbor, and we root for them all the time, and I’m sure in the past they’ve rooted for us. It’s going to be fun.”

Knoch (4-5) and Freeport (5-3) last faced each other in 2005, but the schools play each other in multiple other sports and have a healthy rivalry in sports such as girls volleyball -- both teams won PIAA titles last fall -- and baseball.

Additionally, Freeport offensive coordinator Mike King was the longtime head coach at Knoch, where he led the Knights to the WPIAL title game in 2010, and he and Yellowjackets defensive coordinator Todd Durand both coach at Knoch.

“Obviously we haven’t seen them in a long time,” Knoch coach Frank Whalen said. “The closest we’ve seen them is pretty much just on film this week. They’re a very good football team, they’ve got a lot of talent in their skill positions, very fast defensively. We’re anticipating a really good, competitive football game.”

Freeport clinched a WPIAL Class 3A playoff berth last week and enters the game on a five-game winning streak; Knoch remains alive for a Class 4A postseason spot, depending on how tiebreakers shake out in the Northwest Eight.

“They’re like a blue-collar, pack-your-lunchbox type of kid,” Gaillot said. “That’s what makes our area still like that. It’s going to be a physical game. We know that going in. I’m excited about it, being able to play them. Really just as long as everybody stays healthy. This is a great opportunity for both communities.”

Full-go for Freeport

The Freeport/Knoch game won’t count in the standings, and Freeport already clinched a playoff spot. But don’t expect Gaillot to sit his starters to keep them healthy for a WPIAL first-round game.

“I just believe, and my coaching staff believes, that it gives us a chance to better ourselves,” Gaillot said. “Things are going to happen, and injuries are going to occur no matter what ... but you take that game away from the seniors and it’s their last season, and not only that, you give your starters less of an opportunity to improve.”

Gaillot said he does approach practices differently, with less hitting, after the team clinches a playoff spot.

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