Southmoreland faces tall task against RB McKenzie, Washington
When the Southmoreland varsity football team travels to Washington High School Friday to take on the Little Prexies, it will be cast in the role of David as they attempt to slay the giant, Goliath.
But the giant isn't named Goliath. This time, his name is Shai. McKenzie that is.
McKenzie is the Little Prexies star tailback who is on the radar of every major Division 1 college football program from Maine to California.
The 6-foot, 215-pound senior is a handful all by himself.
Last season, McKenzie led the WPIAL in rushing with 2,700 yards, and scored a whopping 42 touchdowns for the Little Prexies who finished 2012 with a 12-1 record and berth in the Class AA championship game at Heinz Field.
Washington eventually fell to Aliquippa in the title contest, and that loss has left a bitter taste in the mouths of McKenzie, his teammates, and head coach Mike Bosnic.
The Prexies have set their sights on a return trip to Heinz Field in 2013, and if their opening night 26-14 victory over Class AA Interstate rival Greensburg Central Catholic was any indication of how good the Prexies are in 2013, the rest of the conference and the WPIAL are in real trouble.
McKenzie ran for 240 yards and scored three touchdowns against the Centurions, considered by many to be a contender for the Interstate Conference crown this season. What makes this feat even more impressive is the fact that McKenzie was limited to just 44 yards in the first half of that game.
If teams concentrate solely on containing McKenzie, the Prexies can beat you through the air as well.
Jonathan Spina has taken over as the signal caller for the Prexies this season, and is steadily improving behind a big and strong group of talented offensive linemen.
When Spina drops back to pass, he will be looking for senior wideout Chase Caldwell. Caldwell is a shifty receiver who has soft hands and can rack up the yards after the catch with his elusive running style.
On defense, Washington plays a very disciplined defensive style that relies heavily upon its linebackers to make big plays.
However, Greensburg Central Catholic Central quarterback Chase Keller may have found a weak link in the Washington defense last week, as he passed for 267 yards and a pair of scores against the Prexies.
For the Scotties to have any hope of derailing Washington this week, they have got to do three things.
One, do not turn the ball over. The Scotties handed the ball to Jeannette four times in the season opening 49-21 loss.
Two, contain McKenzie and shut down the Prexies running game. Easier said than done.
Three, control the line of scrimmage and manage the clock at the same time. Keeping the ball out of the hands of the Washington offense will limit the number of touches that McKenzie and company will get to try and put points on the board.
A very tall order indeed.
Sounds a lot like David vs. Goliath. But hey, we all know how that one turned out.
Mark King is a contributing writer.