Prexies meet all expectations on way to state title
Before this football season started, Washington coach Guy Montecalvo said this might be one of the best teams he has coached.
After last weekend, this squad should be considered his best team ever after it won Washington's first PIAA Class AA title Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium with a 19-12 victory over previously undefeated Pen Argyl.
"They have a chance now to be folk legends," Montecalvo said.
Montecalvo, who now is 187-67-2 in 22 seasons at Washington, gave much of the credit to his senior class.
"This is a group of 21 seniors that have worked very hard," Montecalvo said. "They've just busted their tale since last January and would have been almost unfair if they wouldn't have triumphed. We have wonderful young men on this team, and I'm just happy for them."
And this group led the second half charge to overcome a 6-0 deficit after some stirring speeches at halftime.
"I could hear a Danny Mozes, Justin Gregula and Javon Washington screaming at the team, 'We are not going to lose this game. We're not going out this way.' They made sure they didn't," Montecalvo said.
Washington (15-0) has been one of the elite programs in Class AA for several years, but the teams that seemed destined to win a state title fell short.
"It's not very often in life you set a goal for yourself that you are able to completely achieve it," Montecalvo said. "We've had so many outstanding football teams that have been tripped up by some misfortune or a better football team."
"We lost a couple games in the WPIAL championship by one point. Only one team can be happy at end of the year. It's not very often you end your season with a win in the playoffs."
Saturday was an emotional day and even more so after Montecalvo told his players at halftime that the state championship would be his last game at Washington.
"That was kind of a shock to us, and that motivated us even more," junior running back/defensive back Travis Thomas said. "He's helped us so much and we just wanted to go out there and do it for him."
Montecalvo's announcement motivated the Prexies, who erased Pen Argyl's lead and took command with a strong running game and good secondary play.
"In the second half, we knew we were down and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that no team from Washington or Greene County has ever done," said Fullback J.R. Ward, who led Washington with 92 yards rushing.
Then with the game in hand, Montecalvo told his players he was just kidding during a timeout.
"I thought that could stimulate them a little bit, and maybe it worked," Montecalvo said.
The Prexies have been stimulated since last January when Montecalvo told parents, players and boosters at the team's banquet to book their hotels for the state championships in Hershey.
Then Washington was the unanimous No. 1 selection in the preseason Pittsburgh Tribune-Review WPIAL Football Coaches Poll. And a drubbing of No. 2 Waynesburg, 47-0, in Week 6 only added to the hype.
"Ever since day one, we've been the top team," Ward said. "I know I had high expectations. Coaches had high expectations. Fans, friends, family, even we had high expectations."
Next season's expectations won't be as high with the graduation of a talented senior class, but the Prexies return their top rushers in Ward and Thomas. Dale Calloway is a rising start at cornerback and junior Dave Calabrese should be able to fill the void at quarterback left by Gregula.
"We'll take a little time off and relish this a little and then go right back to work in the weight room in January," Montecalvo said. "We have J.R. Ward and Travis Thomas coming back. And a quarterback that is ready to step in."