Chris Dugan's Sports Column

Decision day nears for McKenzie

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The Associated Press Class AA all-state football team was announced Wednesday.


It did not include Washington High School running back Shai McKenzie.


That would have been unthinkable only four months ago.


The ultra-talented McKenzie (6-0, 220) entered his senior season as one of the top-rated running backs, not only in the state, but in the nation. As a junior, he rushed for 2,689 yards and 41 touchdowns, a single-season record in the Observer-Reporter’s coverage area. He was bigger, faster and stronger this year.


McKenzie was off to one of the best starts to a season – 650 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns, 18.1 yards per carry in a little more than two games – by a running back in WPIAL history when one unfortunate cut on the artificial turf surface at Charleroi High School on a Friday night in September resulted in a torn knee ligament that ended his season too soon.


The injury, however, didn’t damage McKenzie’s status in recruiting circles. He remains a highly coveted prospect.


McKenzie plans to end his recruitment and announce his college decision Friday afternoon at Wash High. McKenzie has trimmed his choices to three schools: Pitt, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. In addition to the three finalists, McKenzie made an official visit to Florida State last month but has cut ties with the Seminoles.


• The O-R will announce its all-district football team in Sunday’s edition. As is custom, it will include the Player of the Year, Elite 11 and representatives from all 21 area schools.


• The Pennsylvania Cable Network will replay South Fayette’s 41-0 destruction of Imhotep Charter in the PIAA Class AA championship football game Dec. 31 at 11:45 a.m. and Jan. 1 at 12:35 a.m.


• The PIAA realigns classifications for all of its sports every two years. Those classifications are based on enrollment numbers for boys and girls at each member school in grades 9 through 11. This week, the PIAA released the enrollment figures and classifications for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. Though most area schools will not be impacted by the realignment, several will be on the move.


Those that can be considered winners in the realignment game are Chartiers-Houston softball, and Jefferson-Morgan and West Greene boys basketball.


Chartiers-Houston, which has won six WPIAL Class A softball titles, will play its second season in Class AA this school year before dropping back to Class A in 2014-15. Jefferson-Morgan and West Greene, two schools more known for wrestling than boys basketball, moved up to Class AA last season and combined to win 11 games. Next year, the Rockets and Pioneers will return to Class A.


The biggest loser in realignment seems to be Carmichaels. A long-time power in Class A softball, the Mikes will be moving up to Class AA. So will the Mikes’ boys and girls basketball teams.


Burgettstown, another power in Class A softball, also will be moving up to Class AA. McGuffey’s girls basketball program will be moving up to Class AAA.


Burgettstown’s football team, which went winless this fall for the second consecutive year while playing in the Class AA Century Conference, will still be playing in Double-A next year. The Blue Devils are 11 boys over the cutoff for Class A.


With Geibel Catholic informing the WPIAL that it will not play a varsity football schedule next fall, Avella now has the distinction of being the school with the smallest boys enrollment to field a football team. Avella has a boys enrollment of 61, which is 11 fewer than Mapletown.


• Shouldn’t Rice be playing in the Fight Hunger Bowl?



Sports editor Chris Dugan can be reached at dugan@observer-reporter.com.


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