It what continues to sound like a broken record, Washington's record-breaking running back rushed for more than 200 yards and helped lead his team to a big win Friday night.
But for once, Shai McKenzie's effort wasn't the biggest story.
After falling behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter, Washington used its defense to rally for a 33-17 win against Seton-LaSalle in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal at Canon-McMillan.
"We stuck together and continued to work hard," Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. "We knew we would have to face some adversity at some point. Well, the guys came through."
Washington (11-0), the No. 3 seed, moves on to the semifinals for the first time since 2001, when the Little Prexies won the championship. They'll face No. 2 South Fayette (11-0), a 35-21 winner against Beaver Falls.
Washington had not played a team that could pass as well as Seton-LaSalle (9-2) all season. The Rebels featured one of the WPIAL's leading passers in Luke Brumbaugh and a slew of dangerous receivers. But after giving up two early scores and falling behind, 17-3, midway through the second quarter, Washington's defense stiffened and its offense scored the final 30 points of the game.
Brumbaugh threw for 158 yards in the first half but was limited to 40 in the second half, when the Washington defense wore down the Rebels line, forced three turnovers and blocked a field goal attempt. The Little Prexies also dominated time of possession in the second half, holding the ball for nearly 20 minutes. The Rebels had scored fewer points only once this season.
"They started to get more pressure on the quarterback," Seton-LaSalle coach Greg Perry said. "They got a lot of pressure from their down linemen. And they did a great job of controlling the clock. It's hard to score when you don't have the ball."
McKenzie, the WPIAL's leading rusher and touchdown leader, added to his monster junior season by running for 201 yards on 30 carries. It marked the eighth time this season McKenzie rushed for more than 200 yards. He scored his lone touchdown on a 56-yard burst.
"This feels really good," McKenzie said. "We came out slow, but we came together as a team."
Quarterback Josh Wise accounted for four of Washington's touchdowns. Wise scored on three quarterback-keepers -- 3, 1 and 1 yards -- and tossed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Chase Caldwell.
"They were keying on Shai, and Josh, being the player he is, stepped up," Bosnic said.
The game was less than three minutes old when Brumbaugh read a hot route and hit his tight end, Pitt recruit Scott Orndoff, with a quick slant on fourth down for a 21-yard touchdown. Soon after that, Brumbaugh found Lou Rotunda for a 11-yard touchdown.
Slowly but surely, Washington got its vaunted running game on track. The Little Prexies drove 77 yards on 12 plays and scored when Wise got into the end zone on a quarterback keeper from three yards out.
Seton-LaSalle's Dom DelGreco kicked a 29-yard field goal to put the Rebels ahead, 17-7, but McKenzie quickly cut into that lead when he took a handoff and broke free for the 56-yard score to make it 17-14.
Wise's 1-yard run capped a 78-yard drive that ate up the first 5:33 of the third quarter, thus giving Washington the lead for good, 20-17.
Bosnic had a few inspirational words for his team as they huddled around him afterward.
"Enjoy this," he said. "Fifteen years from now you aren't going to forget this. And guess what? We have an even bigger one next week."
First Published November 10, 2012 5:15 AM