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Jayhawks continue to focus on tackling issues

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Zack Altieri catches a pass from Julian Batts for a 71-yard gain.
The team lines up for Michael Wise's kickoff after the Hawks scored.
PHOTOS: John Howard | The Jeannette Spirit
Jeannette's Damone Morton breaks a tackle to run around the left side in Friday's game against the Vikings.

Losing streaks, even the two-game type, are not the norm for Jeannette football and the current slide is particularly irritating for head coach Roy Hall.

“It's been a frustrating year,” said Hall. “We as a coaching staff have tried several things to fix some of the issues we have had and it hasn't always translated.”

The “issues” at hand are mostly tackling issues.

The Jayhawks' defensive front has been gashed by several opponents, even in the games they've won, some by a large margin, and was gashed again last Friday by Interstate Conference foe Mt. Pleasant in the Vikings' 35-21 victory over the Jayhawks that dropped Jeannette to 4-2 in the conference and overall.

Mt. Pleasant shares the top spot in the Interstate Conference with Washington ­­— both teams are 6-0 in the conference and overall.

Tackling issues surfaced early at Mt. Pleasant and the Vikings took full advantage to build a 21-0 first-quarter lead on touchdown runs of one, seven and 10 yards. Jeannette responded at the end of the first quarter with a 71-yard touchdown strike from Julian Batts to Zach Altieri.

“We responded OK and got ourselves back into the football game,” said Hall. “I thought we had a turning point kind of play on our next score.”

Hall was talking about a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown by senior Davie Headen. Hall and the other Jeannette coaches were screaming for Headen to back off of the spinning, bouncing football, but Headen headed his own call, picked up the ball and scampered through defenders or the score to close the gap to seven.

Jeannette used another big play — a 60-yard Batts to Miles Sunder pass play — to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, but Mt. Pleasant scored on its next two possessions, again running through would-be Jayhawk tacklers, to regain the lead and seal the victory.

“We played much better against Mt. Pleasant than we have been playing,” said Hall. “It has just been frustrating to not be able to sustain it in some of these games.”

Jeannette will play its only non-conference opponent Friday night when they host Class-AA Allegheny Conference leader Shady Side Academy (6-0, 6-0).

SSA is ranked fourth in the WPIAL in Class-AA and is averaging more than 37 points per game on offense while yielding only six points a game.

“They present a very difficult challenge,” said Hall. “We need to find a way to get back on the winning track, and it does not get any easier.”

WPIAL Class-AA Interstate Conference standings:

Mt. Pleasant (6-0) (6-0)

Washington (6-0) (6-0)

Jeannette (4-2) (4-2)

Greensburg Central

Catholic (3-2) (3-3)

Waynesburg (2-3) (3-3)

Yough (2-3) (2-4)

Southmoreland (1-4) (1-5)

Charleroi (0-5) (1-5)

Brownsville (0-5) (0-6)

Dave Moio is a freelance writer.

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