CANONSBURG – Mike Bosnic, Washington High School’s head coach, had been telling his undefeated football team for weeks that there would be a point in the season when the Prexies would face adversity. The Prexies, Bosnic said, needed to remain calm and not panic.
Wash High finally met adversity in the first quarter of a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game Friday night.
Seton-La Salle, the Century Conference runner-up, hit Washington with the Rebels’ version of Shock and Awe. Seton-La Salle quarterback Luke Brumbaugh confidently picked apart a confused Wash High secondary on the Rebels’ first two offensive possessions, each resulting in a touchdown pass. Less than eight minutes into the game, Wash High found itself trailing 14-0.
“They had us on our heels,” admitted Prexies linebacker Jaylin Kelly. “There was a lot of confusion on defense. We had some miscommunication. The coaches just told us to relax and to get where we needed to be on defense. Nobody was panicking.” Playing like a confident and mature team, Washington overcame the shaky start, took control of the game in the middle quarters and finished with a flurry.
Quarterback Josh Wise ran for three short touchdowns and threw a game-clinching TD pass, and Shai McKenzie had another big game, as Wash High rallied for a 33-17 victory at Canon-McMillan’s Memorial Stadium.
The win sends Wash High (11-0) into next weekend’s semifinals against South Fayette (11-0). The Prexies and Lions are two of the six remaining undefeated teams in the WPIAL.
To stay undefeated, it took a huge comeback by Wash High. Seton-La Salle held leads of 14-0 after one quarter and 17-7 late in the first half. The Rebels scored all 17 of those points on their first three possessions. The rest of the game, however, Seton-La Salle was held scoreless.
“We stuck together. These kids never quit,” Bosnic said. “The second half, that’s the way we played defense all year.”
As has been the case all season, it was tailback Shai McKenzie who jump-started Wash High’s offense. Late in the first half, McKenzie broke free up the middle, then cut back to the left sideline for a 56-yard touchdown run that trimmed Seton-La Salle’s lead to 17-14. It was the only score in a workhorse night for the WPIAL’s leading rusher. McKenzie finished with 201 yards on 30 carries.
The Prexies then opened the second half with a 78-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Wise’s one-yard sneak. For the first time, Wash High had the lead, 20-17.
The Rebels then drove to the Prexies’ 11-yard line, but on third down Brumbaugh’s pass to Louie Rotunda was juggled in the end zone and dropped. S-L settled for a 27-yard field goal attempt by Dominick DelGreco, but the kick was never high enough and bounced in the end zone.
It was one of two drives that proved costly for Seton-La Salle’s offense. In the first half, the Rebels had first-and-goal at the Prexies’ one, but two illegal procedure penalties forced S-L to settle for a 29-yard DelGreco field goal and 17-7 lead.
“We left points off the board in the first half,” Rebels coach Greg Perry said. “We get first-and-goal and then have confusion. When you have the ball at the one-yard line, you have to punch it in.
“Then, in the second half, they get the lead for the first time but we come right down the field. Unfortunately, we drop a ball at the goal line. If we catch that ball, we get the momentum back and who knows what happens.”
After the dropped pass, S-L did very little offensively. Wash High’s defense took control of the line of scrimmage. The Rebels had trouble blocking Rikwon Moore in the middle of the line and Daron Whitaker was putting pressure on Brumbaugh from the perimeter of the defense.
A bad snap from center was recovered by Moore at the Rebels’ 44. Eight plays later, Wise scored his third touchdown on fourth-down sneak from one yard out to push Wash High’s lead to 26-17.
After a sack and Brumbaugh fumble that was recovered by Malik Wells, the Prexies sealed the victory when Wise completed a pass to Chase Caldwell over the middle. Caldwell cut across the field to the right sideline, then beat a defender to the pylon for a 32-yard touchdown and 33-17 lead with only 2:35 remaining.
Wise completed four of five passes for 84 yards, and finished with 38 yards and three scores on 10 carries.
“They did a good job of containing Shai, but Josh made some big plays,” Bosnic said. “Knowing what kind of person and competitor Josh is, I knew we could count on him to come through.”
Brumbaugh completed 17 of 32 passes for 217 yards. He threw TD passes of 21 yards to Scott Orndoff and 10 yards to Rotunda in the first quarter.