Xtra Points: Prexies back isn't shy on stats

McKenzie musters an amazing year on football field

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Washington running back Shai McKenzie set a school single-season rushing record last week. But McKenzie's season is really one for the ages in the entire WPIAL.

McKenzie is a 6-foot, 215-pound junior who led the WPIAL in rushing during the regular season and whose yards-per-carry average was surreal.

McKenzie rushed for 1,902 yards on 127 carries, a 15.0 average. That is the highest average in at least 30 years for any WPIAL running back who has gained 1,000 yards in a regular season.

To put McKenzie's statistics in perspective, consider that from 1979 (the first year the Post-Gazette recorded WPIAL statistical leaders) through last season, only 47 running backs ran for 1,000 yards in a season and also averaged 10 yards a carry or more. In 12 of the previous 33 seasons, not one running back in the WPIAL ran for 1,000 yards and averaged 10 yards a carry.

"It really is amazing when you think about it," said Washington coach Mike Bosnic. "There will be times when a play is in progress and you think he has a chance to just get some yards. The next thing you know, he's gone. In some respects, it's almost like you're watching a video game."

Since 1979, only five players have averaged more than 12 yards a carry. Three averaged 14 yards or more last season --Ringgold's Quad Law 14.7, Clairton's Tyler Boyd 14.0 and Sto-Rox's Josh Beverly 14.1.

McKenzie's 1,902 rushing yards is the ninth-best regular-season total in the WPIAL since 1979. McKenzie has six 200-yard games this season.

"The thing is, when you go back and look at our season, he may have played in the second half in only three games [because of blowouts]," said Bosnic, whose team is 9-0.

McKenzie's first name is pronounced like the word "shy." And with his success and popularity this season, he has turned Washington into "Shai town." Bosnic goes as far as calling McKenzie "one of the best junior running backs in the nation."

McKenzie already has scholarship offers from Pitt, Purdue, Connecticut and Toledo. Many others are showing interest.

"I've talked to a couple scouts who feel it's only a matter of time before he's going to have 20-30 offers," Bosnic said.

McKenzie also led the WPIAL in scoring this season with 194 points (31 touchdowns and eight points on conversions after touchdowns). That ties for the fifth-highest regular-season total since 1979 with Steel Valley's Delrece Williams (scored 194 in 2010).

The only ones who scored more than McKenzie since 1979 were Mars' Bill Bair (204 in 2007), Rochester's Essex Law (204 in 1991), Laurel Highlands' Jim Smith (200 in 1989) and Greensburg Central Catholic's David Miller (200 in 2008).

Explaining the change

Even though there is no NHL season so far, the Penguins affected the order of the WPIAL football championship games this year.

The WPIAL announced Monday that when the title games are played at Heinz Field Nov. 23, Class A will be first at 11 a.m., followed by Class AAAA at 2 p.m, Class AA at 5 p.m. and Class AAA at 8. Usually, the Class AAAA game is last.

The WPIAL made the change at the request of Root Sports television. Root will televise all four games. When the WPIAL and Root met months ago to discuss the championships, Root asked to change the order because the station planned to televise a Penguins game that night. That would have forced the Class AAAA game to be shown on a tape-delayed basis, but the Class AAAA game usually gets good TV ratings. Due to some conflicts with Penguins games in the past, Root has had to show the Class AAAA game on tape, but didn't want to do it again.

Even though there will be no hockey due to the lockout, Root decided to stick with its original plan and the WPIAL agreed.

Umberger's fame

NHL player R.J. Umberger was elected to the Plum High School sports hall of fame this year. Due to the NHL lockout, Umberger will now be able to attend induction ceremonies next Thursday at Edgewood Country Club.

Umberger played at Plum from 1996-98 and led the Mustangs to a WPIHL championship as a sophomore. He had 66 goals and 52 assists as a sophomore.

A Plum of a punt

There is nothing on record on what the longest punt is in WPIAL history, but it's hard to believe many have been longer than the one Plum's Dylan Kondis booted last weekend.

In a game against Pine-Richland Kondis had an 82-yard punt. Plum had the ball at its own 18 when Kondis booted one that sailed over the head of a Pine-Richland return man, bounced and rolled into the end zone.

According to the Pennsylvania Football News, the state record for longest punt is 94 yards by Martin Dragsoits of Nazareth 61 years ago.

Check this out

• Franklin Regional's Dane Brown has 3,944 career yards rushing and could reach 4,000 in a WPIAL playoff game tonight against Elizabeth Forward.

• Butler's Devin Fitz led the WPIAL in field goals this season with seven. Shady Side Academy's Mike Pohl and Penn-Trafford's Matt Loughnane tied for second with six.

• Central Valley coach Mark Lyons doubts whether quarterback Nate Climo (head injury) will play tonight against Belle Vernon. Leading rusher Jerome Whitehead is questionable with a shoulder injury.

"It's not as bad as we thought," Lyons said of Whitehead's injury.

Star receiver Robert Foster will not play after being thrown out of last week's game because of two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Under PIAA rules, any player ejected from a game is ineligible for the next game.

End of an era

When the Hampton girls soccer team lost to Peters Township, 1-0, in the WPIAL quarterfinals last week, it marked the end of a career for a highly successful coach.

Hampton's Frank Christy had decided to retire after this season. He was believed to be the winningest active coach in the state and finished his career with a 435-124-32 record. He won two WPIAL titles at Hampton and made the playoffs in 22 of 23 seasons. He also coached two years at Linsly (W.Va.) and five at Fox Chapel.

A "Crusade" for 600

The Bishop Canevin Crusaders hockey team played Plum Thursday night in a PIHL game. With a win, Canevin would become only the sixth Western Pennsylvania team to have 600 all-time victories. The others are Upper St. Clair, Kittanning (played a few seasons as Armstrong Central), Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park and Central Catholic.


Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com


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