It might be a bit of an overstatement to call an 0-1 start a "hole," but after a season-opening loss to Greensburg Salem, the Knoch football team got its 2013 campaign started behind the proverbial eight ball.
Since that first loss, though, the Knights have bounced back nicely, winning three consecutive games to give them three wins in their first four games for the fourth consecutive season.
Knoch was widely viewed as one of the top four or five teams in the Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference entering the season and through the first four games, the team is about where it wants to be.
"I'm really pleased with being 3-1, but we have a lot of work left to do," Knoch coach Mike King said.
Returning only three starters on the offensive end -- after losing the leading passer, two leading rushers and three leading receivers from a 2012 team that finished 7-3 -- King said he expected more from his defense in the opening game, hoping that its play could help ease in an offense trying to integrate so many new parts.
Not surprisingly, the team's mini-turnaround has largely come on the strength of the defense. In the Knights' past three victories, they have limited opponents to 10.3 points per game, with two of those teams (Derry Area and Trinity) scoring in single digits.
After a slow start, the offense has stepped up its game as players in several skill positions have gained experience. Junior running back Cody Milsom, in his first season as a starter, has led the way with a considerable workload, rushing for 475 yards in four games while averaging 25 carries per game and 4.8 yards per carry.
Though junior quarterback Daniel Farinelli, also a first-year starter, hasn't always been accurate this season with a completion percentage of 44 percent, he has thrown for 488 yards, 197 of which have gone to wide receiver Jim Larrimer, who is averaging 21.9 yards per reception.
Even with the recent success, King knows that the toughest part of his team's schedule remains. Knoch's three victories have come against teams with a combined 1-11 record and its final four games include matchups against Franklin Regional, Mars Area and Highlands, all of whom have 3-1 records and sit at the top of the conference standings.
Although the past three games have helped right the Knights' season, their success this year will be defined by that stretch.
"Nothing's going to be easy, nothing's a 'gimme,'" King said. "Our goal is to make the playoffs. Deep down, our kids would like a section championship, but we can't worry about those things right now."
Hampton turning around
Few teams in Class AAA seemed to be in a more dire situation after the first two weeks than Hampton after the Talbots got off to an 0-2 start that saw them get outscored, 59-14, in losses to Indiana and Highlands.
Since then, Hampton has recorded victories in back-to-back weeks. In those two weeks, the team's offense has averaged 38.5 points per game, with its biggest performance coming last weekend in a non-conference victory against Laurel Highlands. In that win, senior running back C.J. Arch rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns, junior quarterback Nick Grabowski completed 16 of 21 passes for 181 yards and senior wide receiver Jon Floss had seven receptions for 121 yards.
In a matchup of two teams that have rebounded from poor starts, the Talbots will look to continue their success this Friday with a game against Knoch.
Somebody has to win
The past several years have not been kind to the football teams at Shaler Area and Fox Chapel.
The Titans have lost 17 consecutive games dating to October 2011, a season in which they qualified for the WPIAL playoffs, while the Foxes have lost eight in a row, with their previous victory coming against Shaler on Sept. 28, 2012.
One of those streaks will come to an end Saturday as Fox Chapel travels to Shaler for a 1:30 p.m. game.
Games of interest
North Catholic at West Shamokin, 7 p.m., Friday -- After a surprising 3-0 start, West Shamokin was thumped last Friday by Avonworth, 48-0. Its challenge will only get steeper against a 4-0 Trojans team that has won its past three games by an average of 39 points.
Penn Hills at North Hills, 7:30 p.m., Friday -- This non-conference matchup pits two 3-1 teams against each other. North Hills won last season's game, 21-20.
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG