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Patriots claim share of ACAC title

– Heritage rode a hot start to a 56-20 win over visiting Garrett and a share of the ACAC championship on Senior Night.

Heritage (7-2) and Garrett (7-2) will share the conference title with 5-1 league records, and it might be a three-way deadlock if Leo (4-1 ACAC) beats Bluffton today at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“This was a big win for all of us, not just me,” Heritage senior running back Wil Knapke said.

“We did everything we had to to get the win tonight. The conference championship put more meaning on this game, so we came out harder than we have all year.”

In a multidimensional attack where opposing defenses don’t know what to defend, the Patriots built a 20-0 lead in the first quarter and 35-14 at halftime.

“We knew we had to come out and put points on the board early,” Heritage senior quarterback Conner Sheehan said. “We knew we had to come out and finish them and not be in a (close) game after that.

“We wanted to prove we were No. 1 in conference. We didn’t want to leave any doubt. Coach (Dean Lehrman) has been telling us all week that it is ours if we want it and we control our own destiny.

“It all starts with our team being unselfish. You don’t know who is going to come in and make plays. The last two weeks it has been Brenton Lockett, but tonight Wil Knapke shined.”

The shell-shocked Railroaders never recovered from the Patriots’ early assault.

“That has been our theme the last month to come out hot and keep the pressure on them,” Lehrman said.

It is Heritage’s first ACAC title since 2006, when it won the last of six straight championships, five of them outright titles.

The Patriots shared the title in 2002 with Leo.

“We have wanted this since we were freshmen, and we have kept pushing and pushing,” Knapke said about what the ACAC title, shared or not, means to the team’s 25 seniors.

Knapke scored three touchdowns, two on the ground and one through the air, while Sheehan threw three scoring passes.

Knapke had 131 rushing yards and 103 receiving yards.

Sheehan threw for 190 yards, and another senior, fullback Jacob Roop, ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns.

Knapke had an 83-yard reception and a 52-yard run for touchdowns in the first half and a 45-yard scoring jaunt in the second half.

Sheehan tossed scoring strikes to Knapke, Lockett and Ben Gibson.

The Patriots used a little bit of trickery, a fake field goal and a fake PAT attempt. Both resulted in C.J. Whitman hitting Landon Harris on successful attempts, the first one a 5-yard touchdown pass and the second a two-point conversion.

Garrett’s Brandon Porter ran for 152 yards and had two long touchdown runs, from 91 and 52 yards, in the first half.

gjones@jg.net

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