Jeannette shows off big-play abilities on new turf in win vs. Leechburg

Friday, August 30, 2019 | 10:20 PM

From idea to inception to realization, so much has been made of Jeannette’s new turf playing surface.

Now, how about the team that plays on it? And how about this passing game?

The second-ranked Jayhawks weren’t about to let down a spirited home crowd in the first game on the sleek, synthetic field at McKee Stadium.

Senior receiver Bayley Molter certainly appears to have taken a liking to the new field.

Molter and junior quarterback James Sanders made for a big-play combination as the Jayhawks rolled past Leechburg, 33-6, in the Class A Eastern Conference opener Friday night.

Sanders completed 8 of 11 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns, with Molter pulling in five receptions for 167 yards and three scores.

Jeannette played without senior receiver and defensive back Jackson Pruitt, who suffered a shoulder injury last week at East Allegheny.

Molter said he knew he would have to do more in the passing attack with Pruitt out.

“I had to do my thing and show everyone what I can do,” said Molter, who had two receptions last season. “James threw money my way, and I just tried to make the plays.”

Jeannette (2-0, 1-0) has won 13 straight games at McKee and has not lost a home game since 2016 (32-13 against Clairton).

The field had a grass surface since it opened in 1937.

“James made some great throws, and Molter — he has been in our plans all along — made the plays,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “Bayley is a big, fast kid with nice hands.”

Jeannette welcomed dozens of school officials, athletes, students and fans Thursday for a field dedication. About 24 hours later, the Jayhawks showed they’re still dedicated to winning football games, too. This was No. 749, the most in WPIAL history.

“We wanted to play well for our fans tonight,” Hall said. “We had four starters out and had some other guys step up.

“We’re very happy with the win. I thought our defense played well, but we’re not satisfied. We can always improve”

Sanders threw first-half scores of 61 and 63 yards to Molter, a big target at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds. He also connected with junior Toby Cline for a 49-yard strike, with Cline spinning through defenders before breaking away.

He also tossed a 14-yarder to Molter as Jeannette took a 27-6 lead into halftime.

Justin Cramer and Brett Birch had interceptions for the Jayhawks, and they also forced a fumble.

Imani Sanders rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown for Jeannette, which is 12-1 all-time against Leechburg (0-2, 0-1).

The Blue Devils have not beaten Jeannette since 1987.

“We couldn’t execute the way we wanted to,” Leechburg coach Mark George said. “We made some mental mistakes in coverage.”

Senior-heavy Leechburg, coming off a 5-5 season — the first time the team finished at .500 since 1991 — had one bright spot: freshman Braylan Lovelace, who returned a kickoff 79 yards to cut the lead to 13-6 in the first quarter.

“He is a ball player,” George said. “I think he is going to open some eyes.”

Third-year starting quarterback Dylan Cook, who threw for more than 300 yards last week, was limited to 66 yards.

Leechburg was missing his top target from Week Zero in sophomore tight end Eli Rich, who had five catches for 101 yards against Apollo-Ridge.

“Not having him changed what we could do in our passing game,” George said. “I’m not going to question the effort of our guys that did play. Jeannette executed what they wanted to do but we had a lot of penalties and mistakes.”

Alex Stramaski also was limited for the Blue Devils. He was only cleared to kick after an injury.

Kaelan Piscar and Jamison Taishaun also did not play for Jeannette.

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

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