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 Panthers, Titans Square Off for 40th Time in History; Knightstown Leads Series 22-17

Sept. 26, 2007 - Homecoming. Momentum heading into the season-ending stretch run. A game against one of your biggest rivals for the past 36 years. The Victory Bell traveling trophy.

Can there be any more on the line for a regular-season high school football game?

Knightstown and Tri High will renew their annual football rivalry Friday night on the Panther football field, and the playing surface has probably never been more level.

Both teams are 3-3 on the season. Against common opponents, the Panthers are 2-1 and Tri is 1-2. KHS beat Centerville in the season opener 13-7 when the Bulldogs were without their number one running back. Tri lost to the ‘Dogs the following week 28-14.

Perhaps are better comparison is their match-up against Shenandoah. Both teams beat the Raiders 14-6, and both teams have lost this year to Hagerstown.

Tri has scored 118 points in six games, while the Panthers have put up just 74. Panther opponents have a combined 19-17 record, while Tri has played teams with a combined record of 17-19.

But Knightstown’s struggling offense may be on the verge of turning the corner. Quarterback Brice Biehl threw for 98 yards in last week’s win over Shenandoah, and the Panther offense finished with 247 total yards. Fullback Trey McColley, out since the second quarter of the season opener with a broken foot, has repeatedly said he will be ready Friday night when the Titans and Panthers take the field.

“I’m ready to go,” McColley said. “I’m not 100 percent yet, but I can contribute and I expect to play.” Panther Coach Bob Prescott was still maintaining a wait-and-see approach to the big fullback’s status. “Trey’s lateral movement has been getting much better,” Prescott said. “He’s made great strides over the last week. But it’s going to come down to whether or not he’s medically released, and then we’re still going to leave that decision up to the family.”

McColley’s presence alone should elevate the Panthers to another level of play. In just eight carries against Centerville in the season opener, McColley had 60 yards rushing and a touchdown. The Panthers have had nearly a dozen drives end on downs this season because they failed to convert on fourth-and-short situations. McColley would have gotten those needed yards.

But the Panthers have won three games this season without the big fullback and starting quarterback Joe Haase, who is out indefinitely.

“It was big for our kids to get the win (against Shenandoah) without those guys,” Prescott said. “The players are learning to accept who we are as a team, and a lot of guys have stepped up and made big plays. That’s what we’ve been asking for all year.”

Against the Titans, Prescott said his team will be searching for some ways to get back to an effective option attack. That’s something Shenandoah took away from the Panthers last weekend.

“We need to have a balanced offensive attack, and to do that we’ve got to find a way to re-establish our option,” Prescott said. “Tri is a different team this year than they were last season, when they had a tendency to throw the ball a lot. This year we think they will work hard to establish a running game, and we’ve got to be ready to react to that.”

Tri has considerable size on both of its lines, including 6-4, 255-pound Patrick Horselooking; 6-3, 225-pound Daniel Montgomery; 6-3, 225-pound Kelly Polling; 6-3, 235-pound Zane Dickson and 5-9, 200-pound Lee Spurgin.

The Titans put up more than 300 yards of offense against Hagerstown last week in their 42-28 loss. That included 154 passing and 152 rushing.

Knightstown will try to counter the Titan’s size with its speedy defense, which held Shenandoah to 150 total yards of offense last weekend.

“I’m sure it will be a great environment Friday night,” Prescott said. “Hopefully the weather is good and we have a nice Homecoming crowd.”