When Shai McKenzie went down with a season-ending knee injury in the third week of the season, a common thought was that Washington's WPIAL Class AA title hopes were gone along with its star running back. But approaching the seventh game of the season, the Little Prexies have shown little, if any, signs of slowing down. Washington is 6-0 and ranked No. 3 in the Post-Gazette's Class AA rankings.
"I'm proud of the team," coach Mike Bosnic said. "We've adjusted really well and the kids have worked hard and stepped it up each week. We're seeing a lot of improvement."
Running back by committee
With McKenzie's injury came a painfully obvious question -- who would replace him? After all, he led the WPIAL in rushing last season with 2,689 yards while solidifying his status as the best running back in the area. Forced to cope with his absence, Washington did not try to replace him with a single player. Instead, they have used several players to try to fill the void. Three other Prexies running backs -- Malik Wells, Jordon West and Kurt Adkins -- have rushed for at least 200 yards this season. Since McKenzie got hurt in the first half of a victory against Charleroi, West has rushed for seven touchdowns and Wells has added five. "I think we have a plethora of talented runners and each one of them brings something different to the table," Bosnic said. "Right now, they're all performing really well."
Every name has a story
When scanning through the nicknames of WPIAL teams, there are many of the standard ones seen across the country -- Eagles, Bulldogs, Bears, Tigers -- meaning something like "Little Prexies" is certain to stand out. How exactly did that nickname come about? About a mile away from Washington High School is the campus of Washington & Jefferson College, whose sports teams are called the Presidents. Washington used to go by Little Presidents, but over time its nickname morphed into "Prexies," which is a slang term for presidents.
An athletic family
For anyone who has met or seen Bosnic, one thing that immediately stands out about him is his size at 6 feet 7. Given his stature, it's not surprising Bosnic is a former offensive lineman at Pitt. And he's far from the only athlete in his family. His older brother, Nick, played basketball at Maryland and later at Duquesne, and his younger brother, Dan, played football at Temple. Both also coached basketball at Connellsville, where Dan is still the head coach. "Athletics has always been a part of our family and has always been a major influence on our lives," Bosnic said.
A famous name
The last name Blount is one that resonates in the local football community, largely because of former Steeler Mel Blount, a defensive back who played from 1970-83 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His son, Khalid, is a sophomore tight end for Washington, a promising talent Bosnic said "can turn into a great player."
Big game looms
Tied atop the Interstate Conference with the Prexies is Mount Pleasant, a team Washington will face tonight at home. Last season, the Prexies made quick work of the Vikings, winning by a 34-14 margin behind 296 rushing yards and three touchdowns from McKenzie. This season, Mount Pleasant is giving up about eight fewer points per game and features an explosive offense with running back Tyler Mellors and quarterback Ryan Gumbita. "They have size, they run a really nice wing-T system on offense," Bosnic said. "The quarterback scares you -- he's a really good player who can throw and run the ball. The biggest challenge will be containing the Mellors kid."
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org First Published October 10, 2013 8:00 PM