PITTSBURGH – Getting here is the goal, and a lot of fun. Of the 35 teams that play Class AA football in the WPIAL, only two are good enough to make it to Heinz Field.
But getting here and losing is tough, especially after 12 weeks of doing nothing but winning. That’s the sad and frustrating side of playoff football.
Washington High School’s fabulous season reached a conclusion here Friday night with a one-sided 34-7 loss to undefeated Aliquippa in the WPIAL championship game. It was a disappointing finish. Losing the final game of a season always is difficult to accept.
Sure, it hurts to lose when you’re so close to a championship. But the Little Prexies must never forget what they accomplished this season and all the things they did to get here.
This was Washington’s most successful season since the Prexies’ drive in 2001 to the state championship. After some lean seasons coming off the title run, energetic head coach Mike Bosnic was lured away from Carmichaels four years ago and has injected life back into the Prexies. For three months this fall, Wash High football was again the talk of Washington.
“This season has been a great thing for us,” Bosnic said. “The support we received from the community was overwhelming. To see the joy and pride this team was able to bring back out in our community, it has been a great experience.”
For the nine weeks of the regular season then three playoff games, Wash High’s football team was unstoppable. When it needed a touchdown, record-setting tailback Shai McKenzie delivered them in bunches. When the situation called for a big play, the Prexies found a way to make them, such as when Daron Whitaker blocked a punt late in the fourth quarter against Jeannette, leading to a return for a touchdown and an unlikely come-from-behind victory.
But on this night, against a talented and confident Aliquippa team, Wash High looked like just another team. That says all you need to know about Aliquippa, which won the 15th WPIAL title in its rich football history. The Quips made an outstanding team look very ordinary.
Aliquippa dominated the line of scrimmage, shut down McKenzie and rolled for 505 rushing yards against a Wash High defense that had been allowing an average of only 91.4 per game.
It took less than four quarters to see why Aliquippa, a school with Class A enrollment but is playing up in class, has been talked about as possibly being the best team in the WPIAL – in any classification. There was even a story in the Beaver County Times this week in which several WPIAL coaches weighed in on the Quips’ chances of winning a Class AAAA title. The majority said that in a one-game situation, Aliquippa could beat any team.
“That wouldn’t surprise me,” Bosnic said. “We lost to one of the best teams ... maybe ever.”
It also wouldn’t surprise anyone who saw the Quips on this night. They were that good. That’s why, for Wash High, there should be no shame in finishing second. Not this year. Not to Aliquippa.
That doesn’t make the sting of this loss any less painful.
“No way,” said Wash High senior Josh Wise, who scored the Prexies’ lone touchdown on a 50-yard fumble return late in the third quarter.
“As an athlete, you never want to lose any game, to anybody. Unfortunately, we lost this game. We knew we had to play a mistake-free game. ... The sting will be there for a while.”
And, with time, that sting will fade. It will be then that the Prexies will look back on this season with pride and know they added another memorable chapter to Wash High’s football tradition.
Sports editor Chris Dugan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.