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Blocked punt in final minute lifts Washington over Jeannette

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Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Washington's Shai McKenzie returns a blocked punt for a touchdown past the grasp of Jeannette's Shavonta Craft in the final seconds of their WPIAL Class AA Interstate Conference game at Washington High School on September 28, 2012. Washington defeated Jeannette 18-15.
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Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, 11:12 p.m.
 

Washington won a football game even its players didn't believe they would.

The fifth-ranked Little Prexies trailed by a field goal with 30.6 seconds left.

But Daron Whitaker blocked a Mike Wise punt ,and Shai McKenzie scooped it up and raced 47 yards to give Washington a shocking, 18-15 victory against No. 3 Jeannette (4-1, 4-1) on Friday in a WPIAL Class AA Interstate Conference first-place showdown at Wash High Stadium.

McKenzie, who rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns for the Little Prexies (5-0, 5-0), said his teammates were a little down before the punt.

“This is unreal,” McKenzie said. “Some of the players felt it was over. I can't believe we blocked it and the ball bounced to me. Thank God it did. I just picked it up and started running.”

McKenzie was bothered by shin splints, cramps and a shot to his thigh during the game. He'd limped off the field a couple times, only to return.

“Our coaches told us someone had to make a big play and (Daron) did, and we needed it,” said Washington linebacker Jaylin Kelly, who made a touchdown-saving tackle on Jeannette's Shavonta Craft on the ensuing kickoff. “I was just trying to wait for him, but I felt the blocker so I came up to meet him.”

Washington coach Mike Bosnic said the win was unbelievable.

“We got lucky at the end, and it just feels great,” Bosnic said.

“Give our kids credit because they made an incredible play. Believe it or not, we've had a couple miracles, but nothing dramatic like this in a big game.”

Bosnic said it looked like Whitaker shot the gap and got so much penetration that he either he blocked it or blocked someone into the ball.

Early on, Washington's offense controlled the game behind McKenzie. He scored on a determined fourth-and-goal run from the Jeannette 4 to give Washington a 6-0 lead.

Washington was driving again late in the first quarter, but Jeannette safety Seth Miller intercepted a Josh Wise pass and returned in 64 yards for a touchdown.

Miller then hit Brandon Krautz for a two-point conversion to make it 8-6.

Jeannette took advantage of two Washington turnovers and a couple of costly penalties to grab a 15-6 halftime lead on a 9-yard run by Anthony Canady in the second quarter.

But Washington's defense stoned Jeannette in the second half despite the Jayhawks starting drives in Little Prexies territory. Jeannette had only one first down, by penalty, in the second half and finished with 121 yards of offense, 24 coming on the final play of the game.

“I shoulder the whole blame for this loss,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said.

“We were a little too conservative, and Washington's defense outmanned us at times.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at pschofield@tribweb.com or 724-836-5095.

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