Prexies need push from offensive line
Anthony Byrd, left, takes a hit from Nathan Dubina during summer camp. The Prexies open their 2013 season with a 7 p.m. game Friday against Greensburg Central Catholic.
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There’s no doubt in Dan Mahoney’s mind how Washington crushed Greensburg Central Catholic, 28-7, in Week 1 of the 2012 football season.
The Prexies’ offensive line had its way with the Centurions, and it’s something that Mahoney, the GCC coach, hasn’t forgotten entering tonight’s rematch.
“We really challenged our offensive and defensive lines to step up for this game,” Mahoney said. “It wasn’t there last year when we played them, and it was obvious.
“I don’t think mentally we were ready last year.”
Line play will decide the outcome, and Washington will be operating with several new faces.
Gone are key cogs Brenton and Elijah Jones, as well as the group’s leader, Rikwon Moore.
Senior center Xavier Darden (5-10, 190) and junior right guard Anthony Byrd (6-1, 255) saw significant time last year, helping running back Shai McKenzie run for 2,669 yards. Senior left tackle Patrick Ellis (6-3, 255) and junior left guard Thomas Cherry (6-1, 256) will step into starting roles. Sophomore right tackle Khalid Blount (6-1, 265) is another newcomer.
“That’s a big question mark right now,” Prexies coach Mike Bosnic said. “We’ve had some turnover on the offensive line. The group we have right now has a ton of potential, but we still have a lot of work to do. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens up front.”
An offensive tackle at Pitt, Bosnic takes special pride in the group’s play and pushes them as such at practice.
Ellis said the group isn’t yet where it needs to be, but the most important part is that nobody’s being all that passive – the quickest route to Bosnic’s doghouse.
“As long as we come off the ball aggressive, if we make a mistake, we want to make sure it’s an aggressive mistake,” Ellis said. “As long as we play aggressive, we’ll get something done.”
McKenzie said he and his linemen went over blocking assignments in first period study hall on Thursday morning to make sure everybody was on the same page for GCC, which has several talented linebackers in Seth Warburton, Nate Stone, Eddie Kilkeary and J.T. Astalos.
“I talk to my linemen as much as I can,” said McKenzie, who rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns in this matchup last fall. “We have some young guys in the system. Hopefully, they’re ready, and we can have the same outcome.”
Other storylines include stopping GCC quarterback Chase Kellar, who’s the Centurions’ best offensive player. He threw for 1,378 yards and 15 touchdowns last season while also rushing for a team-high 577 yards.
Kellar did lose his top three targets from a season ago. Running back Tyler Balla is one of the few returning skill players for GCC.
“We have kids who are double-duty types,” Mahoney said. “They’ll play running back, and we’ll put them at receiver because we don’t really have a solid corps of receivers.”
The Centurions lost their entire secondary, including Akron recruit Zach Guiser.
Washington junior Jonathan Spina takes over at quarterback for Josh Wise, and his top targets will be wide receivers Quorteze Levy and Chase Caldwell, as well as tight end Nate Swart.
Malik Wells, Arthur Long and Jordan West will spell McKenzie, who will rotate some at outside linebacker.
“I know last year this was considered a real big game, and we came out and made a statement,” McKenzie said. “We’re hoping to make a statement this year as well. If we can win this game, it could be a good start to our season.”
South Fayette at McGuffey, 7 p.m.
Could these two be any more opposite? South Fayette, behind quarterback Brett Brumbaugh and wide receiver Justin Watson, has one of the WPIAL’s most sophisticated passing attacks, while McGuffey has a backfield that features James Duchi and Patrick Frey, Observer-Reporter Elite 11 selections last season. … McGuffey will be without QB/CB Nate Whipkey (stress fracture in his leg) for at least another four weeks. … South Fayette cruised to a 42-6 win in this game last year.
Jefferson-Morgan at Carmichaels, 7 p.m.
Mikes coach Ryan Krull makes his debut in the 88th installment of this rivalry. … Carmichaels has a 51-31-5 edge in the series. … Look for J-M to throw more this season with junior quarterback Rece Henneman. … The Rockets’ offensive line averages close to 300 pounds, head coach Liam Ryan said, thanks in large part to senior offensive tackle Jake Earnest, who’s 6-10, 385 pounds.
Trinity at Elizabeth Forward, 7:30 p.m.
These two finished tied for third in the WPIAL Class AAA Big Nine Conference a season ago. … Watch Warriors quarterback JaQuan Davidson, an NCAA Division I recruit who last year ran for 1,007 yards, threw for 590 more and totaled 20 touchdowns passing, rushing and receiving. … Trinity fullback/linebacker John Dobich will be out six weeks with a broken ankle. … Trinity won this game, 14-7, in 2012.