Life without Shai McKenzie begins tonight for Washington High School’s football team.
McKenzie, the second leading rusher in the WPIAL and one of the top recruits in the country, was lost for the season last week when he ruptured his ACL in a rout of Charleroi. McKenzie had surgery scheduled for this morning in Pittsburgh.
“We’ve got to move on; that’s all we can do,” said Washington head coach Mike Bosnic.
McKenzie’s injury could not have come at a worse time for the Prexies – if there is a good time for a season-ending injury. The Prexies host Yough in a key Class AA Interstate Conference matchup tonight with a 7 p.m. kickoff. Washington is 3-0 and Yough is 2-1, after a five-point loss to Jeannette (3-0, 3-0). A Thursday night meeting against the Jayhawks in Jeannette is coming up in Week 5.
“Shai is a once-in-a-lifetime talent,” said Bosnic. “Unfortunately, he’s played his last game for us, and it came before anyone expected.”
Bosnic said none of the schools pursuing McKenzie pulled back because of the injury, and he expects McKenzie to still have the option of going to one of the teams on his final list: Florida State, Pitt, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Arkansas.
McKenzie has rushed for 650 yards – second in the WPIAL to James Wheeler’s 723 of West Mifflin – and scored a WPIAL-leading 11 touchdowns in the first three games. Bosnic said Arthur Long, a 6-1, 230-pound senior who was playing fullback, and Malik Wells, a 5-8, 175-pound junior, will get more carries, and more plays will be designed to take advantage of the skills of seniors Quorteze Levy (6-1, 183) and Chase Caldwell (6-1, 195).
“I don’t expect them to be too much of a different team,” said Yough head coach Mark Crovak. “Hopefully, they don’t have a kid as good to replace him. I wouldn’t want to see him.”
Bosnic said he might turn to some younger runners, such as sophomore Jordan West (5-9, 160), and ask quarterback Jonathan Spina to do more. Spina has only four completions but made just 10 pass attempts. The Washington game plan for the past two seasons has been to give the ball to McKenzie then go block someone.
“I told the kids that as bad as you feel, it does not change the expectations for you in this football program,” Bosnic said. “You have to embrace this challenge.”
This is the third season-ending knee injury on Washington’s team. Junior Jordan Mooney and freshman Liam Wolf each went down earlier in the season.
Yough has some injury problems, too. Quarterback Tyler Donahue missed Week 2 after sustaining a shoulder injury in the opener. He is expected to play against Washington and has been an accurate passer, completing 15 of 25 for 145 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Clayton Waldron is not only Donahue’s main target but the Cougars’ leading rusher. He has 44 carries for 244 yards and caught 20 passes for 227 yards. Fullback Tom Sever is averaging five yards a carry (21 for 107).
“They are a big Class AA school,” Bosnic said. “They make a lot of big plays, and they are strong kids. We’re concerned about that. They have a good running back and a good quarterback.”
Avella at Jefferson-Morgan
The Eagles put their undefeated record on the line when they travel to Jefferson. Avella is 3-0, 2-0 in the Tri-County South. The Rockets are 2-1 in three conference games. The winner of this game has an easier road to the WPIAL Class A playoffs. Stopping quarterback Santino Paris (492 yards, 8 touchdowns) and the running of Nick Kusich (318 yards, 8.0 average) will be critical if J-M is to win this game. Rece Henneman is averaging 100 yards passing a game and Logan Bowman has five touchdowns for the Rockets.
Brentwood at Fort Cherry
Fort Cherry runs into the teeth of the Class A Black Hills Conference schedule when the Rangers take on Brentwood this week then travel to Clairton in Week 5. The Rangers have won all three of their conference games and average 48 points a game. Brentwood is 2-1 in the conference and 2-2 overall. Koltan Kobrys (628 yards) is the second-leading rusher in the Washington-Greene County area behind McKenzie and is averaging 12.1 yards per carry. Quarterback Matt Heslin has thrown for 440 yards and six touchdowns. Brentwood has three running backs with more than 100 yards rushing and quarterback Conner McWilliams has passed for 468 yards and six touchdowns.
Monessen at Clairton
Is this the week Clairton’s 66-game winning streak ends? Monessen hopes so, but it will take a strong effort in this Class A Black Hills Conference game. Clairton has won its first three games by a combined score of 108-7. The Greyhounds suffered their first loss of the season, 49-33, to Fort Cherry last week.