Shai McKenzie leads Washington to win over Mt. Pleasant
With a chance to clinch at least a share of the Class AA Interstate Conference title, Washington, led by junior running back Shai McKenzie, turned in perhaps its best performance of the season Friday at Mt. Pleasant.
McKenzie rushed for 295 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries, as the No. 3 Prexies hammered out a dominating 34-14 victory.
“It feels great,” Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. “We accomplished something that will be there forever, and our kids can feel good about that, but we have to be ready to go back to work.”
McKenzie did plenty of work for the Prexies. On his second carry of the game, he scored on a 69-yard TD midway through the first quarter.
“That set the momentum,” said McKenzie, who also caught a two-point conversion from quarterback Josh Wise to make it 8-0.
But the momentum shifted back to Mt. Pleasant (5-2, 5-2) as Taylor Allison, who scored a pair of touchdowns for the Vikings, capped an eight-play drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to make it 8-7.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, that was as close as they would get as McKenzie was just heating up. In the second quarter, McKenzie carried the ball seven times on a nine-play drive that concluded when he scored on a 9-yard run. Then late in the second quarter, Wise bulled in for a 1-yard score with just five seconds left in the half.
“I don't think you could say they ran anything that we weren't prepared for,” Mt. Pleasant coach Bo Ruffner said. “Give them credit. They came out with the purpose of winning the conference championship and they executed.”
Washington (7-0, 7-0) led 28-7 in the fourth, but Mt. Pleasant got a 4-yard run from Allison to make it 28-14. McKenzie closed the game with a 1-yard TD run to seal the win,
“I knew I would have to get a lot of yards,” McKenzie said. “They are a good defense and I didn't think I would have this many yards.”
Washington's defense was also solid, recording three interceptions, including two by Wise. Washington also limited 1,000-yard rusher Tyler Mellors to just 66 yards on 12 carries.
Unlike the game two weeks ago against Jeannette, the Prexies did not need a big rally to beat one of the conference's strongest teams as they built a comfortable lead and never looked back.
“The kids sensed we had them where we wanted them,” Bosnic said. “We got into trouble against Jeannette, but we didn't let that happen tonight.”
For the Vikings, it was the second tough loss to the Prexies in less than a calendar year. Washington also beat Mt. Pleasant, 30-14, in the first round of last year's playoffs. More importantly, it was Mt. Pleasant's second straight loss, which drops the Vikings to third place in the conference.
“We need to keep getting better,” Ruffner said. “I believe we have a good team, and if we want to be great, we have to continue to find a way to get better and it starts with me.”
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3534.