South Xtra: Undefeated Prexies next up for Seton-LaSalle
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Scouting and preparing for the Washington High School football team wasn't that difficult this week for the coaching staff at Seton La-Salle.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that these two Class AA powers faced one another in the Century Conference the previous two seasons. The Little Prexies moved to the Interstate Conference this year but still are a familiar opponent for the Rebels.
"They graduated some good football players from last year, but we knew they were going to have a good ballclub with the few guys they did return," Seton-LaSalle coach Greg Perry said.
"We were in different conferences this year, but we knew they've been playing as a very confident football team and we were wondering who would get them in the playoffs. We did well against them the past two years, but we know it's going to be a big test this week."
The former conference foes will meet in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Canon-McMillan's Big Macs Stadium in Canonsburg. Washington (10-0) earned a No. 3 seed in the postseason bracket, while Seton-LaSalle (9-1) was seeded as the No. 6 team.
During its previous two regular-season matchups against the Little Prexies, the Rebels won by the same score, 34-13, in both meetings. The last time the two teams met in the playoffs was in 2005 when Seton-LaSalle earned a 35-7 win in the quarterfinals.
"There's some history there between us," Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. "They have a good coach in Greg Perry and we know they're very balanced offensively and have a good defense."
Washington is coming off a 47-12 first-round victory against Shady Side Academy. Star running back Shai McKenzie, a 6-foot, 215-pound junior, paced the Little Prexies by rushing for six touchdowns and 260 yards.
"The test for us this week is with McKenzie," Perry said. "We've been playing good run defense all year, so this poses an interesting challenge for both teams. We're going to see how good we stack up against him.
"We have to keep him out of the end zone and not allow him to have a four- or five-touchdown night."
McKenzie rushed for 1,902 yards and scored 37 touchdowns during the regular season.
"[We expect] McKenzie running to the right, McKenzie up the middle and McKenzie to the left," Perry said. "He usually only needs one or two carries before he breaks one for a touchdown. We're wondering if they can sustain drives.
"We hope to make them drive the football field and wear them down. Obviously, they go as much as he goes but they still have talented players around him."
The Prexies also have weapons in running back Daron Whitaker, who has rushed for eight touchdowns this season, as well as quarterback Josh Wise.
"We have to take care of the football and limit our mistakes," Bosnic said. "We have to play good defense.
"We know we have Shai, who can break a long run at any time, and then have guys around him who will make it tough for [Seton-LaSalle] to key on just him."
Seton-LaSalle scored 21 unanswered points in the second quarter last week en route to topping Greensburg Central Catholic, 28-10. The Rebels, who have been guided by the arm of quarterback Luke Brumbaugh all season, relied on its running game against the Centurions in the first round.
"We ran the ball well," Perry said. "There were some good winds going with the rain last week, so we made the decision to run the football and we were successful."
Running backs Nick Sywyj and Tom Rizza led the Rebels' ground attack with 122 and 120 yards rushing, respectively. Seton-LaSalle's defensive unit also intercepted three passes against Greensburg Central, including a 29-yard return for a touchdown by Scott Orndoff.
"They've really played impressive defense all season," Bosnic said. "They play great defense and their offense has some great size. This is a good football team.
"They are balanced with their running game and they can throw the ball, too."
Brumbaugh has been one of the top passers in the WPIAL this year and threw for 1,545 yards and 17 touchdowns during the regular season. Lou Rotunda, who has 10 touchdown receptions, and Orndoff, a Pitt recruit, have been Brumbaugh's main targets.
"It seems like the opponents progressively get tougher each week," Bosnic said. "We'll be OK as long as we limit our mistakes, stay focused and be ready to play all four quarters."
Perry also is keeping his team's game plan pretty simple.
"We have to maintain our running game," he said. "The longer we run the football and the more we sustain drives keeps McKenzie on the sidelines.
"I'm not sure that we want this to go to a shootout. We need to keep the ball on offense and limit McKenzie's touches. We have to keep playing good defense and special teams should play a big factor, too.
"This is going to be a big test this week."
• Game: Washington (10-0) vs. Seton-LaSalle (9-1).
• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Where: Canon-McMillan;'s Big Macs Stadium.
• Skinny: The undefeated Prexies face a test from the once-beaten Rebels in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal game.