Jeannette, Washington renew Interstate Conference rivalry
Four years ago, coaches Roy Hall of Jeannette and Mike Bosnic of Washington were in their first seasons at their current schools.
While it seems like yesterday to both, it's been a while since the two have met on the gridiron.
Both remember it well.
“They were (one of) the first ones to beat us,” Hall said of Washington's 24-16 victory in 2009. “We'd gotten off to a great start, but things went downhill. We didn't make the playoffs for the first time in a while.”
Washington left the Interstate Conference but returned this year. The series resumes Friday night at Washington High School Stadium.
“It's not a playoff game, but we approach it like one,” Hall said.
Like this season, Class AA No. 3 Jeannette (4-0, 4-0) had started out by winning its first four games in 2009. The Jayhawks then won just once more, losing to Washington along the way, and finished at 5-4 and out of the WPIAL playoffs spotlight.
“It was a great win for our program at the time,” Bosnic said.
At Washington, Bosnic has been laying awake at night thinking about the series renewal with Jeannette.
“There's a lot of buzz and a lot of people around town talking about the game,” he said. “I have had a hard time falling asleep. Both teams have good tradition. We're both off to great starts.”
No. 5 Washington (4-0, 4-0) will unleash its powerful running attack, led by junior sensation Shai McKenzie, on a Jeannette team that thrives on its overall quickness and athleticism in a midseason showdown that will yield a winner but might not mean the best team will win.
McKenzie, a 6-foot, 215-pound junior, rushed 19 times for 209 yards and three touchdowns to lead Washington to a 42-12 rout of Yough on Friday. He's complemented in the backfield by 6-2, 235-pound senior Jaylin Kelly.
“Those guys have nice size and nice moves,” said Hall, whose team beat Brownsville 60-7 last week. “To top it off, they've got a few other guys that can really play. They've got a nice-sized line. We've got to play the game. I'm hoping our versatility and quickness will pull us through.”
Jeannette's interior defense could clog the middle for McKenzie and Kelly in Washington's spread offensive sets. Nose tackle Nathan Childs is a disruptive force for the Jayhawks, and he's benefited by flanking linebackers Jordan Edmunds and Brandon Krautz.
Bosnic said Washington and Jeannette mirror each other in many ways.
“They're a lot like us,” he said. “They're very athletic. They have speed at every position. That would be the biggest concern for us — their speed.”
Jeannette's best approach may be to attempt to keep Washington's defense off-balance with a mix of run and pass. There are plenty of options with Edmunds, Shavota Craft and Anthony Canady in the backfield and the dangerous passing combo of quarterback Seth Miller and wide receiver Damone Morton.
Washington should likely just stick to the game plan it's used all year: Hand the ball to the imposing backs and clear a path, while mixing in the pass to keep Jeannette honest.
“Let's go out and ... line up and play,” Hall said. “And let's see what happens when it's over.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5617.