|Junior tight end Nate Swart|
Between its star running back suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week Three to the courtroom nonsense in the latter part of the season, the Prexies had every reason to buckle, but that doesn't happen at Wash High.
Malik Wells and Jordan West filled in admirably for Shai McKenzie, and the team finished second in the Interstate Conference behind Mt. Pleasant. The Prexies lost in the first round of the Class AA playoffs to Seton-La Salle, 35-27.
Much is different about the team in 2014 and conference realignment has changed the landscape of the Interstate with the additions of McGuffey and Burgettstown. Like every football program in the WPIAL, Wash High faces questions as it prepares to open the season Aug. 29 against Derry Area.
One thing that is not a question is the leadership on Wash High's team and a coaching staff that rivals any in Western Pennsylvania. This senior class may not feature a player of McKenzie's notoriety, but the group has experience and like Prexies teams of the past, possess tremendous size and speed.
I went to practice Wednesday afternoon for day one of heat acclimation and here are some observations:
Linemen: There aren't many lines in Class AA that have the brute strength and size of Wash High's. Finally, Zach Blystone is eligible to play in games and will be the leader of the group. Led by the Division I prospect, this line will intimidate some of its opponents when they step off the bus.
Look for Khalid Blount to open eyes this season and the best thing about this group is depth. They have numbers and all of the intangibles to pave the way for Wells, West and the Prexies' passing game.
Secondary: An early good luck to anyone who tries to rely on the pass when playing Wash High. Wells and West are shutdown corners, while DeQuay Isbell is seeing increased playing time at the position. Size, athleticism and experience across the board.
I'm harping on experience, but with roster turnover great at most schools, having players who received extended playing time is vastly underrated. The whole secondary returns besides Quorteze Levy.
Passing game: Wash High has built a reputation as a power running team that uses its strength to wear down defenses and control time of possession.
While Wells and West will get plenty of carries, look for the Prexies to pass more in 2014. With Nate Swart at tight end and a group of receivers that includes Isbell, Jarell Dates and Isaiah Perry, Spina will have the chance to stretch the defense.
Swart will create match up problems for opponents and Isbell's pure speed will be fun to watch. I'm curous to see how head coach Mike Bosnic utilizes his weapons on offense.
Running game: Wells and West rival any one-two punch in the WPIAL. Both are tremendous athletes and they have already demonstrated their ability to change games.
There aren't any questions about these two. Wells is receiving Division I interest and West, only a junior, will follow suit. The duo combined for 18 touchdowns in 2013 and without McKenzie, I expect that number to be higher this season.