One of the WPIAL's top running backs tweeted Friday that he wanted to prove himself in the biggest game of his career.
The fact that Shai McKenzie did was no surprise.
How he did it stunned everybody.
McKenzie scooped up the ball after a blocked punt and raced 47 yards for a touchdown with just 19 seconds left to give Class AA No. 5 Washington a shocking 18-15 win against No. 3 Jeannette in an Interstate Conference showdown.
McKenzie entered the night as the second-leading rusher in the WPIAL -- averaging a hefty 190 yards per game -- but Jeannette (4-1, 4-1) kept McKenzie under wraps, limiting him to 104 yards and two short touchdowns on 24 carries. However, when the future looked bleak for Washington (5-0, 5-0), McKenzie and teammate Daron Whitaker stepped up in a big way to help the Little Prexies put the finishing touches on a gigantic victory.
Jeannette appeared to have the game in hand, taking possession leading, 15-12, with 2:47 left. The Jayhawks picked up a first down and Washington was out of timeouts. But Jeannette faced fourth-and-6 at the Washington 45-yard line with the clock showing just less than a minute left. Jeannette coach Roy Hall decided to let the play-clock run out and take a 5-yard delay-of-game-penalty -- instead of trying for the first down -- which lowered the clock to 30 seconds and made it fourth-and-11.
Jeannette punter Michael Wise faced a heavy rush and Whitaker got his hands on the ball. McKenzie corralled the ball, broke a tackle and raced down the left sideline for the touchdown.
"A lot of us had our heads down prior that, but we knew we could pressure [the punt]," McKenzie said. "I just picked it up, shook off a tackle and tried to get to the end zone. It was amazing."
Jeannette coach Roy Hall said he and his assistants thought about trying for the first down instead of punting, but they didn't want to give Washington the ball close to midfield had they not converted.
"Maybe I was a little too conservative," said Hall, who led the Jayhawks to the WPIAL final a year ago. "I'm the head coach, so I put all the blame on myself."
Seth Miller scored on a 64-yard interception return to put the Jayhawks in front, 8-6, in the closing seconds of the first quarter. Then, with 1:44 left in the first half, Anthony Canady found the end zone on an 8-yard run to put the Jayhawks ahead, 15-6.
But the Washington defense held Jeannette to minus-1 yard in the second half until Miller scrambled for 24 yards on the game's final play.
"We had some luck on our side, but it feels good," Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. "We knew how big of a game this was and I give our kids credit for finishing it like they did."