Monday, September 29, 2014

What we learned from Week 5

Wash High junior Kurt Adkins
Did Wash High ever really go away?

The Prexies have been one of the top programs in WPIAL Class AA over the last 25 years with two WPIAL championships and six WPIAL title game appearances. That’s five less rings than Aliquippa and tied with South Fayette, Jeannette, South Park, Seton-La Salle for second most over that span.

People tend to reflect on the down period between Guy Montecalvo’s departure and Mike Bosnic’s arrival or the tumultuous 2013 season, which had plot twists that could compete with the movie, “Friday Night Lights.”

One of the biggest knocks against Wash High is losses in big games. There’s the 1999 WPIAL Class AA title game against Waynesburg at Heinz Field. The Prexies were the top team in the state before they played the Raiders in the regular season, which ended with a Waynesburg victory.

The matchup at Three Rivers Stadium had the same outcome where Lanfer Simpson joined the many WPIAL greats to have a monumental performance in the annual championship games. What about the 18-point championship loss to Shady Side Acadmy in 1997? Most recently, Aliquippa beat Wash High and Shai McKenzie by 27 points in 2012.

The dramatic letdown after the loss to the Quips was followed by the 2013 season, which featured McKenzie’s season-ending knee injury, Zack Blystone’s transfer case and the questioning of Quorteze Levy’s eligibility. It also included a Week 7 loss to Mount Pleasant at home that cost Wash High the Interstate Conference title and a first-round home playoff loss to Seton-LaSalle.

When the 2014 season was in its infancy, the Prexies were named a contender in Class AA, but people searched for question marks when the answers were right there. The word was that there was no way Wash High could return to being great without a player like McKenzie.

Without him a year ago, the Prexies were inconsistent and loss two big home games. For some, the luster had worn off. Well, Friday night’s win over Mt. Pleasant should return hope to the illustrious program. The result was the maturity of players such as Malik Wells, Jonathan Spina, DeQuay Isbell and Jordan West.

After three quarters where Wash High allowed the Vikings to hang around, the Prexies regained the lead and held on for a 35-14 win. How did they do it?

The offensive line cleared the way for Wells and West. Spina was effective. The defense made big 
plays and limited Mt. Pleasant’s chances with a relentless pass rush. There are many reasons the game ended with the Prexies sitting atop the conference.

Wash High outplayed Mt. Pleasant. The Vikings were able to have success running the jet sweep with Trevor Salopek at times, but their linemen wore down in the second half and the Prexies capitalized by creating turnovers and putting pressure on the quarterback.

Now sitting at 5-0, there is plenty to get excited about with Wash High, but the season is far from over. Charleroi and Southmoreland are easy matchups, but New Brighton is very fast and athletic. That is an extremely tough non-conference game. What about McGuffey in Week Nine?

The Highlanders want nothing more than to knock off the Prexies and spoil their chances of winning the conference title. And McGuffey has the weapons on offense to give Wash High a game. Home field advantage in the playoffs may be secured by then, but taking that game lightly would be a mistake.

  • South Fayette rolled over Carlynton as Brett Brumbaugh and the Lions earned head coach Joe Rossi his 100th career victory. No one has touched SF so far this season and there probably won’t be much of an opponent until a Week 8 game against Seton-LaSalle.
  •   McGuffey defeated Brownsville, 42-7, behind James Duchi’s 165 rushing yards and three touchdowns.  The Highlanders play Derry and Burgettstown before facing Waynesburg and Wash High. If they can get through the next two weeks without injury, look for them to beat Waynesburg and set up a big Week 9 game against the Prexies.
  • Chariters-Houston played a nice game against Bishop Canevin on Saturday. The game featured the Crusaders’ coach being ejected and three first quarter turnovers, but it came down to the leg of the Bucs’ kicker. The Bucs’ playoff fate is likely to be decided against Fort Cherry in Week 9. After losing to the Rangers the last week of last season to miss the playoffs, C-H head coach Terry Fetsko would love to keep Ft. Cherry out of the postseason.
  • It was a slow week with uneven matchups, but Week 6 has a lot to offer. In my next post, I'll preview some of the bigger games as the playoff picture is becoming clear.

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