Knauss takes Panther job

By Randy Lefko
Posted 7/10/19

ORANGE PARK - Newly hired Ridgeview High School football coach Mike Knauss is hoping his new troops will buy in real fast that his taking over the Panther reins will be good for Ridgeview …

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Knauss takes Panther job


ORANGE PARK - Newly hired Ridgeview High School football coach Mike Knauss is hoping his new troops will buy in real fast that his taking over the Panther reins will be good for Ridgeview football.

"I'm going to find out quickly what kind of team Ridgeview wants to be," said Knauss, 32, an assistant coach stint at 5A-Bishop Moore in Orlando with a 2015 state title over a Wakulla team that beat Clay in the state semifinal before becoming head coach in 2016 at 3A-Father Lopez in Daytona Beach with a first playoff berth in 34 years last year. "I try to build personal relationships. If they buy in with me and the coaches, I think we can do something here. I want them to come to me and be ready to go to war."

Knauss, 32, takes over after the sudden departure of three year coach Cameron Porch. Porch finished his final year with a 5-5 overall record and a near-miss at a playoff spot in the very tough 5A ranks in north Florida after an 0-10 first year and a 6-4 second year. Knauss also takes over the weightlifting team with a weightlift state champion last year and a first-time region weightlift title.

"I love the weightlift stuff," said Knauss. "I work out with the kids. It's kind of hard to slack when the head coach is working out next to you."

Knauss similiarly, had three years at the helm of 3A-Father Lopez Academy in Daytona Beach with season finishes of 2-7, 6-4 and 9-3 with a playoff win and loss last year.

Father Lopez had their first playoff appearance since 2013 under Knauss with a dramatic 23-21 win over Melbourne Central Catholic in the region quarterfinals and a 40-20 loss to The First Academy in the region semifinals. The playoff win was the first since 1984 in Class 2A for Father Lopez.

"We were up 17-0 against Melbourne before the half," said Knauss. "Long story short, in the second half, we fumbled, interception, they scored and all of a sudden it was 21-17. Then there was an hour and half lightning delay too that didn't help."

In the fourth quarter, with eight minutes still on the clock, Knauss orchestrated a final scoring drive with a fake punt for 15 yards keeping the drive alive, but two fumbles put Father Lopez at third and 30 at their own 30 for what should have been a game-ending drive.

"Our quarterback (a sophomore) fumbled and they got the ball," said Knauss. "They wound up missing a 40 yard field goal, but that game was a big win for Father Lopez."

Against First Academy, Knauss felt the team had put all their energy into the Melbourne win.

"The win drained us and I think the First Academy again was just too big for us," said Knauss. "Not that the team was nervous, but we had accomplished all we were going to for the year with the playoff win."

Knauss, married three years to Katie and with two young children, Mason, 2, and Zoey, 1 (July 23), brings a read-pass-option offensive mentality to the Panthers who, last year, had senior quarterback Tyler Huff directed an effective, fast-moving offense that had major wins over Nature Coast, Baker County and Pedro Menendez. The Panthers fell just short of the region playoffs with devastating district losses to Palatka, Clay and Orange Park.

Knauss hopes his 2019 Ridgeview team, with 22 starters graduated, left a standard of play that he can add momentum to in the fall.

"I've seen some good athletes here and think we have a nucleus for a good team," said Knauss.

One opportunistic addition to the roster for Knauss is former St. Johns Country Day School quarterback Max Monroe, a junior, who has visited a handful of college summer camps to hone in his skill set after going 3-6 for Spartan coach Derek Chipoletti. Monroe passed for 1216 yards, 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions last year for St. Johns. Monroe, at 6'-1" and 215 pounds, also had 30 tackles as a safety with three interceptions and a fumble recovery, plus all the kicking duties. Monroe is also a top soccer prospect in the area, leading St. Johns to a region final berth (lost in overtime) last year.

In his playing days, Knauss was a standout flanker for Atlanta's Greater Atlanta Christian Academy where he earned a "One of Top Players in Georgia" honor while being the team's leading receiver in his junior and senior year. At one time, he owned the longest interception return and longest punt return records for the Academy.

"I played football and baseball," said Knauss. "If I was a couple years younger, when guys like Wes Welker and Julian Edelman came around, then a short, fast wide receiver could be getting looks, but back then, guys were 6'-4" or better as college wide receivers."

After high school, at Samford University in Alabama, Knauss was small-sized wide receiver trying to make an NCAA Division I roster.

"The big names I played with were Efrem Hill (undrafted free agent choice by Carolina Panthers 2005) and Courtland Finegan (drafted in 2006 by Tennessee Titans)," said Knauss. "I was a slot receiver. Eight shoulder surgeries ended my playing days."


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