Jeannette hopes to bounce back after lopsided loss in Week 5
There is a lot on the line when Jeannette visits No. 3 Mt. Pleasant on Friday.
Jeannette (4-1, 4-1) wants to prove it's a lot better than the team that got embarrassed, 48-14, on regional television last Thursday by No. 5 Washington. A win against Mt. Pleasant would quickly erase those memories.
Mt. Pleasant (5-0, 5-0), which has already clinched a berth in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs, wants to continue its improved play and clinch home-field advantage in the first round with a victory.
The Vikings also want to keep pace with Washington atop of the Interstate Conference. Mt. Pleasant and Washington meet in Week 7 in Washington.
“Our focus is on Jeannette,” Mt. Pleasant coach Bo Ruffner said. “We take great pride in only focusing on our next opponent. That's the approach we've always taken, and the players have bought into it.”
Mt. Pleasant rolls into Friday's game fresh off an impressive 50-21 victory at Yough.
Senior running back Tyler Mellors had his best game of the season, rushing for 226 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
Ryan Ballew chipped in with 101 yards and a score, quarterback Ryan Gumbita scored twice and rushed for 71 yards and Brett Fess had 47 yards and a TD for the Vikings, who gained 454 rushing yards.
“We played really well,” Ruffner said. “We've made steady improvements from Week 1 to Week 5. We've continued to get better every single week, and we've continued to work hard at practice.”
But as hard as the Vikings have worked, Ruffner said he expects Jeannette to play its best game of the season.
“They faced some adversity against Washington and their backs are against the wall,” Ruffner said. “We expect it will be a typical Jeannette-Mt. Pleasant game — very physical.
“Both teams will give great effort, but I don't know if it will be another double overtime game.”
Jeannette defeated Mt. Pleasant, 28-27, in 2012 when the Jayhawks' defense stopped Mellors short of the goal line on a two-point conversion in double overtime.
If Jeannette hopes to rebound, then it must find a way to play better defense.
It's something Jeannette coach Roy Hall and his staff have been preaching to their players all season: do your jobs and play as a team.
“We've talked about doing your own job defensively and trusting your teammates,” Hall said. “It's been frustrating. There is no way that we can continue to make routine mistakes and expect to win games.
“We picked the worst time to play our worst game in years. The only positive I took away from the game was that we didn't get anyone hurt.”
Not playing as a team was a problem Jeannette had against Washington.
The Jayhawks have no problem scoring points, but allowing big plays on defense came back to haunt them last week.
Mt. Pleasant burned Yough with numerous big plays last week.
“Mt. Pleasant has been very good under Bo,” Hall said. “He's probably one of the best coaches in the conference. We'll have to play sound defense.
“If they don't score, they can't win. We have to tackle better and handle your assignments. New England coach Bill Belichick tells his players just do your job. That's what we've been preaching.”
Hall said he expects Mt. Pleasant will use last year's double-overtime loss as motivation. The Jayhawks got a big game from quarterback Seth Miller and two touchdowns by Shavonta Craft. Both have graduated.
Quarterback Julian Batts, who has played fairly consistent, will need another solid game if Jeannette hopes to pull off the upset.
“We have to limit Julian's big plays,” Ruffner said. “We know he's going to make them, we just hope to contain him.
“Yough quarterback Tyler Donahue prepared us for him. Defensively, we've continued to get better.”
One key player Ruffner cited was defensive tackle Jessie Leonard, who has filled in because of a couple injuries.
“Jessie has played outstanding and has been very dominating,” Ruffner said. “Others who have played well on defense include end J.J. Ansell, tackle Eric Klejka, linebacker Luke Liprando, end Marcus Malara and linebacker Pierce Cook.”
Hall said he's looking for Damone Morton, Terrell Canady, Michael Edwards, Michael Wise and Quentin Rickard to step up and play well.
“The team knows they didn't play well against Washington,” Hall said. “We had a good week of practice and we were prepared. I knew we had to play a near-perfect game to beat them. But we didn't tackle well.
“Offensively, we've been a scrappy bunch, and I'm glad we have Julian as our quarterback. But we can't make mistakes and end up with a fourth-and-75 again.”