Jeannette has reason to celebrate after rout of Frazier

Friday, September 16, 2022 | 11:16 PM

The WPIAL’s winningest football program hasn’t had much to celebrate since claiming its 10th WPIAL championship and reaching the PIAA final in 2020. The Jeannette Jayhawks have won twice since falling to Steelton-Highspire in Hershey in the Class A final that year.

On Friday night, Jeannette notched its second victory during that span, winning its Eastern Conference opener in a big way.

With members of Jeannette’s latest Hall of Fame class among the home crowd, quarterback Payton Molter threw two touchdown passes and scored twice more to lead the Jayhawks to a 60-14 rout of Frazier and help them avert their first 0-4 start since 1993.

“I told these guys they’ve got something to play for every week,” first-year Jeannette coach Tom Paulone said. “It was a special boost to have the Hall of Fame class here tonight.”

Prior to the game, several class members spoke to the team, among them former Jayhawks football players Terry Gregory and Gerald Foster and former assistant and head coach Art Tragesser.

“They took it seriously,” Paulone said. “They were very engaged with those guys.”

Gregory, an all-state quarterback in 1973 who sparked Jeannette to a WPIAL championship in 1971, went on to play at Temple, while Foster, known in the community as “Jabb,” led Jeannette to the WPIAL championship game in 1994 and followed up as a record-setting wide receiver at Duquesne.

Tragesser, a Jeannette native, helped coach the Jayhawks to three WPIAL championships among six title-game appearances.

Other members of the latest Jeannette Hall of Fame include Bob Davis and Tracey Boney Cunningham (track and field), Brian Weightman (baseball), Julia Gongaware (soccer), Jim Wherry and Lisa Bone (basketball), Dan Hartung (wrestling) and the 2010 WPIAL champion girls basketball team, coached by Janine Vertacnik.

On the field, Jeannette (1-3, 1-0), which was coming off a one-point overtime loss at Jefferson-Morgan a week earlier, took advantage of a struggling Frazier team that dressed just 21 players and finished the game with 14.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming in here,” Frazier coach Mike Shannon said. “Jeannette has been struggling a little bit … but they’re Jeannette. They’re still going to be loaded.”

Since winning their latest state title, the Jayhawks have struggled. Player defections and the retirement of longtime coach Roy Hall have served as distractions to a team that finally took an opportunity to add to its impressive all-time record of 767-331-40.

Frazier (0-4, 0-1) extended its losing streak to 14 games dating to the 2020 season, the longest among active WPIAL teams.

Brownsville, which left the WPIAL this season and is playing as a PIAA independent, has the area’s longest losing streak at 24. The Falcons lost 42-8 to City League independent opponent Carrick on Friday night.

Ellwood City previously held the longest losing streak in the area before ending a 27-game skid on Sept. 9 with a 46-6 victory over Carlynton.

“All the credit to the kids,” Shannon said. “I wish I didn’t have to say that every week, but they didn’t quit. All these guys stepped up and I’m so proud of them, even though the scoreboard is so one-sided.”

Frazier went through five quarterbacks against Jeannette, finishing with wide receiver Keyshaun Thompson, who scored both of the Commodores’ touchdowns after Jeannette built a 54-0 advantage in the third quarter.

First-team quarterback Dalian McManus was scheduled for surgery to repair a dislocated kneecap, Shannon said. McManus has been out since the Week Zero injury against California. Backup Adam Phillips left school on a sick leave earlier Friday, Shannon said.

That left the Frazier coach in a bind. Wide receiver Andrew Banish started against Jeannette, but he left the game after injuring his shoulder in the second half.

Next up was running back Austin Wilson, who also was sidelined after injuring his knee. Thompson played in a mop-up role late. His 76-yard run set up a 4-yard touchdown in the third quarter to put Frazier on the board.

“Keyshaun is a big-time receiver who really stepped up when we needed him,” Shannon said.

Frazier last played in Class A in 2015, reaching the WPIAL semifinals before losing to Clairton and finishing the year with an 11-1 record. Since then, the Commondores, who played in Class 2A from 2016-21, have enjoyed just one other winning season since, a 4-3 mark in 2020.

Molter completed just 3 of 6 passes in limited playing time for Jeannette, finishing with 124 yards passing.

He threw touchdown passes of 48 yards to Noah Sanders and 43 to Michael Mason. Molter also scored on a 3-yard run and a 35-yard fumble recovery.

Sanders scored twice more the Jayhawks on a 44-yard run and a 55-yard kickoff return.

Paulone wondered if the decisive victory will put Jeannette back on track.

“We’ll see Monday who’s loafing at practice,” he said.

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