McKenzie’s 234 yards, 3 TDs spark Wash High
Wash High's Shai McKenzie (5) takes the handoff from Wash High quarterback, Jonathan Spina (12) butg has nowhere to go as Greensburg's Tyler Balla (9) and Jake Weir (24) are ready to tackle Shai in the first quarter at Wash High stadium Friday, Augus t 30, 2013.
Greensburg's JT Astalos (12) hangs on to Wash High's Chase Caldwell (10) as Caldwell went around end for a small gain in the 1st quarter at Wash High stadium Friday night, August 30, 2013. In the background Greensburg's Seth Warbuton (31).
Wash High's Quorteze Levy (9) pulls in a pass for a touchdown over Greensburg's Tyler Balla (9) in the first quarter at Wash High stadium Friday, August 30, 2013.
Shai McKenzie’s mother, Misty Nolder, arrived from Georgia for the start of the third quarter of Friday’s season-opener against Greensburg Central Catholic.
After the Centurions limited Washington’s stud running back to 44 first-half yards and forced him to limp off the field at halftime, McKenzie ripped off a long, momentum-flipping touchdown run early in the third quarter.
The highlight-reel run totaled 61 yards, none of them easy, and snapped Wash High out of a funk, helping rally the Prexies to a 26-14 victory over the Centurions at Wash High Stadium.
“Coming into halftime, a lot of us had our heads down,” said McKenzie, who finished with 21 carries for 234 yards and three touchdowns. “I pretty much sat down and thought, ‘Somebody has to be a leader.’ Stood up at halftime and talked to all my teammates and said, ‘We have to pick it up. We’re a better team than what we showed.’
“I kept talking to them, and we came out with a lot more intensity. Big things happened.”
McKenzie, as expected, was the best player on the field. He was also the most noticeable, debuting his No. 5, the fourth number change in as many years, and a hard-to-miss pair of white gloves.
Especially during the run, a counter play that saw McKenzie weaving in and out, about as easy to bring down as a sequoia.
Last year’s WPIAL rushing leader anchored a three-back attack that also featured Malik Wells, Jordan West and fullback Arthur Long.
Washington led in rushing yards, 277-60.
It was the second consecutive lopsided win for the Prexies over GCC after last year’s 28-7 victory in Greensburg. McKenzie finished with 210 yards and three touchdowns in that game.
“You’re playing your butts off, but he’s a special kid,” Greensburg Central Catholic coach Dan Mahoney said. “You just play as hard as you can. He’s in a league by himself.”
McKenzie’s second touchdown run provided some welcome assurance and showcased his numerous talents. After making a pair of quick cuts, McKenzie used to speed to blow past everyone down the far sideline.
“He’s so explosive,” Wash High coach Mike Bosnic said. “(He) gets the seam and explodes through it, and he’s gone.”
It would prove pivotal, too, as Greensburg Central Catholic quarterback Chase Kellar threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, a 7-yarder to August Shotts and another 7-yarder to Nate Stone.
Kellar completed 15 of 25 passes for 221 yards. Stone had four catches for 97 yards, and Tyler Balla snagged five for 57.
Spina put the Prexies ahead early by throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Levy with 3:59 left in the first quarter. On a bootleg to his left, the left-handed Spina lofted a beautiful pass to Levy in the back corner of the end zone for the score.
Greensburg Central Catholic didn’t manage a first down until early in the second quarter, when the Centurions drove to the Wash High 8-yard line before penalties derailed the drive.
Overall, the teams combined for eight penalties totaling 75 yards in the opening half: an offsides call, a delay of game, a personal foul and five blocking infractions.
With 3:10 to go in the second quarter, Kellar completed an 11-yard pass to August Shotts that put GCC in scoring position, but two more incompletions, including one on fourth down, ensured the Centurions would not score.
McKenzie, who dropped Kellar for a 6-yard loss on a sack from his outside linebacker position on GCC’s third series, left the field for halftime after his 10th carry of the game, though he made it to the locker room under his own power.
And then, with his mom watching, rushed for 190 yards and three scores.
“He’s amazing,” Bosnic said. “We had some breakdowns. At times we were ugly, but we knew coming in that we would have that here and there. He hung in there, was patient and busted a couple plays.”