PITTSBURGH — For some, it’s a little early to think about Halloween.
However, New Castle came through with a thriller Friday night that turned into a “McKnightmare” for Shaler.
Demetris “Pumpkin” McKnight hauled in a 10-yard pass from Michael Wells and did the rest. He curled to the outside, blew past two Titans and scampered down the sideline for a go-ahead 42-yard touchdown with 8 seconds remaining. It propelled the Red Hurricane to a wild 34-27 win at Shaler in a nonconference battle at Titan Stadium.
“That was just a real good football game on a Friday night. There were peaks and valleys, but I am proud of the way our guys were determined to play,” New Castle coach Joe Cowart said. “They made a bunch of plays, but so did we.”
Shaler (0-1), which broke a 24-game losing streak in last year’s 34-21 win at New Castle, took a 6-0 lead on the game’s first possession. However, the ’Canes (1-0) stormed back with the next three touchdowns.
McKnight broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Wells added a big play when he stepped in front of a Titans pass in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a score with 6:11 left in the first half.
“That was great,” Wells said. “At the start of the year, I didn’t want to play defense. But, I wanted to help my team.”
McKnight struck again — this time for a 73-yard touchdown run to give New Castle a 21-6 edge at halftime.
Shaler responded with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, but the ’Canes pulled ahead 27-6 on a Wells quarterback keeper early in the fourth.
The Titans came right back and scored with 2:37 to go, but New Castle blocked the PAT kick to keep the game tied at 27-all. There was no panic for the ’Canes, though.
“Coaches always tell us to keep our heads and that’s what we did and we came out with the victory,” McKnight said. “We just tried to do what we were taught to do.”
Starting from its own 20 with 2:37 left on the clock, New Castle faced a challenging situation. However, Wells, who was playing in his first varsity football game, and the ’Canes calmly delivered.
“That was plenty of time,” Wells said. “I felt like that was my time to show how hard I’ve been working all summer. I took a year off, but I’ve been working.”
The sophomore quarterback worked New Castle down the field. The drive concluded in style when McKnight hauled in a pass and accelerated through the secondary for the score.
“It was sweet,” McKnight said. “I knew if I could get past the one guy, I was gone.”
Cowart was impressed with the performance.
“Mike Wells, with 2:37 left and two timeouts — he just matriculated the ball down the field and made some plays,” he said. “Demetris is a special player and a special talent. It was good to see. It was good to see we have the capability to come back.”
Wells passed for 117 yards and ran for another 45. McKnight finished with 167 yards rushing, 65 yards receiving and 35 yards passing.
“This gives us a lot of momentum,” Wells said.
New Castle opens Northwest Eight Conference play next week at home against Montour (0-1).
“It’s easier to teach after a win. There’s no question about it,” Cowart said. “We have to take steps forward and get in better shape. We’re playing a heck of a team next week in Montour.”
NEW CASTLE AT SHALER
NEW CASTLE 7 14 0 13 — 34
SHALER 6 0 15 6 — 27
SHALER — Joey Impavido, 52-yard pass from Darin Mizgorski (kick failed).
NEW CASTLE — Demetris McKnight, 40-yard run (Donny Cade kick).
NEW CASTLE — Michael Wells, 100-yard interception return (Cade kick).
NEW CASTLE — McKnight, 73-yard run (Cade kick).
SHALER — Mizgorski, 5-yard run (Sam Bens kick).
SHALER — Mizgorski, 1-yard run (Dylan Schlager pass from Mizgorski).
NEW CASTLE — Wells, 1-yard run (kick failed).
SHALER — Shayn Skelley, 5-yard pass from Mizgorski (kick blocked).
NEW CASTLE — McKnight, 42-yard pass from Wells (Cade kick).