Moshannon Valley Coach Michael Keith had one word for those preseason prognosticators who predicted his team would be winless after its first four games.
“Baloney,” he said. “Everyone said we’d be 0-4, that our schedule was front-loaded.”
If there’s any load to be discussed it’s the Black Knights’ elusive quarterback Eric Sherkel.
The junior stabbed the BEA secondary three times in a nine-minute span in the third quarter to lead his team to a 27-7 win in the season opener at Wingate. Sherkel finished the night with 11 completions in 24 attempts for 164 yards and three touchdowns, all on scrambles out from under heavy pressure from the Eagles.
“That’s a playmaker making plays,” Keith said of Sherkel. “He’s an exceptional athlete.”
BEA coach Ron Hoover agreed.
“We knew he was talented,” Hoover said. “In their two scrimmages, he made big play after big play. We were in position to make plays, we thought we had him and all of a sudden he’s scrambling the other way and their receivers were running all over the place.”
As good as he is, however, it was a Sherkel mistake that led to the first score of the game. Under a heavy rush from Levi Cramer deep in his own territory, Sherkel lofted a pass downfield and BEA’s Cody Scholl picked it off and returned it 28 yards down the sideline to give BEA a 6-0 lead at the 7:33 mark of the second quarter. Jared Ishler gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead that would hold through the half.
But the Knights tweaked their offense at the break and it paid dividends in the third quarter.
Mo Valley took the second-half kickoff and marched 62 yards as Sherkel scrambled out of trouble on fourth-and-10 from the BEA 25 and found Curtis Neff in the end zone for the touchdown. Terral Stiles tied it with his kick for the extra point at 9:30.
On its first possession of the half, BEA was backed up to its own 15 and a seven-yard punt put the Knights in business at the 22. Again, the BEA defense stiffened, forcing Mo Valley in a fourth-and-14 situation. And again, Sherkel was in his element as he broke away from the rush and hit Sam Demko for a 15-yard score and Stiles gave the Knights the lead for good with his kick.
The next time the Eagles got the football a fumble at their own 31 gave the Knights great field position and they didn’t waste it, moving to the BEA 12 and from there Sherkel rolled out to his right and found Jake Murawski running free in the end zone for the score. Stiles’ kick made it 21-7 with 1:26 to go in the quarter.
“In the third quarter they were on our side of the field the whole time,” Hoover said. “There was the short punt, then the turnover and that gave them momentum. That was the killer. They changed the momentum and we weren’t able to flip the field.
“We were not able to get any kind of drive going to keep their offense off the field. Our emphasis was to control the clock and keep their offense off the field and we couldn’t do that. Our defense was solid in the first half but we needed our offense to make a drive in the second half and change the field position.”
Mo Valley got its final score when it forced the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs at their own 16 late in the fourth quarter and after three runs inside put the ball on the 9, Ryan Thomas broke off right tackle and scored with 1:32 to go.
That allowed the Knights to celebrate minutes later after winning the first meeting between the two teams since 1968.
“Our defense stepped up,” Keith said. “We challenged them and they were in great position all night. We knew they liked to run the ball and we had to stop the run to beat them. This is a huge win for us.”