Jeannette aims to cut down on penalties against rival Greensburg Central Catholic

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018 | 7:24 PM


Jeannette has to clean up its act, coach Roy Hall preached after last Friday’s night’s home win over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

At the time, he meant cut down on penalties.

But when he reiterated those words Saturday morning, he was referring to the bleachers at McKee Stadium.

Garbage, those penalties were, Hall said — complete rubbish.

So any player who was flagged for one Friday night had to clean up loose trash in the stands — and run at practice.

The Class A No. 1 Jayhawks had 17 penalties for over 100 yards in the 28-13 victory. Hall appreciated the victory and wasn’t cheating the moment; he was looking ahead.

“We have to be more disciplined and cut down on the mistakes because they’re going to end up hurting us down the road,” Hall said. “We can’t do that again this week against (Greensburg Central Catholic). If you let them hang around, they can be dangerous. We always respect our opponent.”

Jeannette (7-0, 3-0) hosts much-improved Greensburg Central Catholic (5-2, 3-2) Friday night in an Eastern Conference rivalry game.

A crisper pre-snap effort and less holding calls could help to propel the Jayhawks to their 14th straight win — and beyond — as they continue their slow simmer to a Week 9 clash with No. 2 Clairton (6-0).

“We’ll clean it up,” Jeannette senior quarterback Seth Howard said. “We need to pass-block a little better, but our defense has looked really good.”

Howard has passed for 868 yards and 12 touchdowns, and has 381 rushing yards and four scores. Last week, he threw for 198 yards and a touchdown and ran for 70 yards and a score.

Howard and OLSH quarterback Tyler Bradley combined for 66 pass attempts; Bradley was 19 of 41, Howard 11 of 25.

Greensburg Central Catholic quarterback Max Pisula said the Centurions are playing with confidence after staying close with No. 3 Imani Christian in Week 4 before falling, 36-21. GCC has two mercy-ruled wins since, 47-0 over Springdale and 43-6 over Mapletown.

“We have to want it more,” said Pisula, who has passed for 937 yards — fourth-most in Westmoreland — and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 249 yards and six scores. “We were 3-7 last year. Now we’re 5-2. We know we have to win this game to have a chance at the playoffs.”

Last year, the WPIAL took the top 16 teams to the playoffs in Class A. Now, it’s the top eight.

The top two teams in each conference, and two third-place wild cards teams, qualify. GCC is tied for third with Imani.

“We have to take care of business, too,” Hall said. “We slip up in this one and lose to Clairton, we might be on the outside looking in. You can’t mess around.”

Jeannette’s defense has been smothering. It has allowed just 44 points all season. Last week, it forced five turnovers, including pick-6 touchdowns by senior Marcus Barnes (57 yards) and junior Jackson Pruitt (85 yards).

Barnes has four interceptions on the season. He also has 19 catches for 339 yards at receiver. He caught a 43-yard touchdown from Howard — on a trick play — in last year’s 55-7 win over GCC at Jeannette.

“We know how good Barnes is, and they have some athletes,” GCC coach Aaron Smetanka said. “If Max isn’t sure, we told him to tuck it and run. We can’t give the ball up on rushed throws and make unforced mistakes.”

GCC’s plan is to establish the run to potentially open the passing lanes. Jeannette wants to use its perimeter speed to build an early lead.

Hall thinks the winner will control the line of scrimmage.

“Their line is stronger, and they’re more physical this year,” Hall said of GCC. “We have to play well up front.”

Smetanka said Friday’s game could hinge on turnovers.

“We should have beaten Imani, but we had four turnovers,” he said. “Jeannette beat Imani and forced four turnovers. We have to secure the ball, and the equalizer is how we play up front.”

GCC will probably play without senior receiver Bryce Kurpiel, who broke his fibula, and junior running back Tom Voelker, who has concussion-like symptoms, is done for the season.

Brandon Brown leads GCC with 23 receptions for 386 yards.

Junior Luke Mazowieki leads the Centurions’ defense with 41 tackles, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. He returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns last week.

Pisula is a run-stopper at defensive end, with 34 tackles and three sacks.

Jeannette has beaten GCC four straight times and has won seven of their last eight meetings since 2011.

GCC’s last win over the Jayhawks came in 2013, 41-14, when Jeannette missed the playoffs.

Jeannette leads the all-time series 18-8-1.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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