H.S. football notebook: Jeannette defense getting offensive

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 | 4:13 PM

Jeannette’s defense is starting to reveal its athleticism and potential.

The Class A third-ranked Jayhawks recorded two defensive touchdowns for the second straight week.

After allowing 34 points to Clairton in Week 1, Jeannette has yielded six points.

Kaelan Piscar returned a blocked punt 10 yards for a score, and Jaydin Canady returned an interception 1 yard for a touchdown in a 45-0 win over Imani Christian last Friday at McKee Stadium.

In the previous week at Riverview, Roberto Smith Jr. returned two interceptions for touchdowns — 24 and 45 yards.

Anticipation, Smith said, is as valuable as strategy for the Jayhawks defensive unit.

“For the most part, everyone just plays their assignments well, and everyone gets to the ball,” Smith said. “We also do a lot of film study so we can sort of tell what play is about to be ran, and we communicate really well with each other.”

Smith said the defensive secondary has been a high point in slowing down opponents.

“We’re not really giving up big plays in the passing game,” he said. “And we’re forcing a lot of long-yardage situations.”

Devin vs. Rodney

Belle Vernon visits Laurel Highlands on Friday in a matchup that will showcase two of the WPIAL’s rising stars.

Devin Whitlock of Belle Vernon and Rodney Gallagher of Laurel Highlands are electric rushers, shutdown defensive backs and standout returners.

Also basketball stars, Whitlock and Gallagher moved to quarterback this season. Both are expected to attract college attention in both sports. Gallagher already has, with major Division I offers in both.

Also of note, Belle Vernon coach Matt Humbert was a star quarterback at Laurel Highlands.

Show of support

Derry had a gift for Freeport’s quarterback, who is battling cancer, before last week’s game.

Junior Garrett King, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer over the summer, was presented a T-shirt with the motto, “Together We Fight” emblazoned on it last Friday at Trojan Stadium.

The Trojans walked the shirt over to King as a team and wished him well.

County reunion

A pair of coaches with local roots will return to Westmoreland County in Week 4. Marko Thomas, the coach at Connellsville, will lead the Falcons against Franklin Regional. Thomas is a Penn-Trafford graduate.

Tim Sweeney, meanwhile, coaches at Baldwin, which plays at Norwin. Sweeney is a Derry grad who coached his alma mater from 2013-19.

Passing grade

Hempfield first-year quarterback Christian Zilli, a senior who hadn’t played football in a few years, had a career game Friday in a loss to Mt. Lebanon.

Zilli threw for 259 yards on 14-of-20 passing with three touchdowns in a 52-26 loss. He had scoring throws of 56 and 51 yards to Roman Pellis.

Zilli’s backup, sophomore Jake Phillips, also saw time and was 9 of 12 for 103 yards.

Mt. Lebanon quarterback Joey Daniels, however, also shined as he went 9 of 12 for 169 yards and four scores.

Yacamelli draws interest

According to Wisconsin.rivals.com, Penn-Trafford senior Cade Yacamelli has been in contact with coaches at Wisconsin, and the Badgers are interested in recruiting him.

Yacamelli scored four touchdowns in a 56-0 win over Shaler last week. He has an offer to play at Penn.

His grandfather played football at Maryland.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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