Washington faces challenge from surging Brentwood in Class 2A semis

Thursday, November 14, 2019 | 6:01 AM

Washington, a regular fixture in the WPIAL playoffs for the past nine years, has been on a mission in 2019.

The Little Prexies are determined to reclaim the WPIAL Class 2A championship after taking the title two years ago.

No senior class at Washington has won two WPIAL football crowns, and this year’s group could graduate with the most wins of any class in school history.

“We have good group of seniors that have developed into good leaders,” said Washington coach Mike Bosnic, whose team has been ranked No. 1 since the preseason.

The Little Prexies (12-0) play fifth-seeded Brentwood at 7 p.m. Friday in a WPIAL semifinal-round matchup at Chartiers Valley.

Brentwood (10-2) is navigating uncharted waters.

The Spartans, a WPIAL playoff qualifier in 10 of the last 12 seasons, have not advanced to the semifinals since 2006.

“We’re happy to be in the final four. The kids are excited,” Brentwood coach Kevin Kissel said. “We’re playing with house money now. We’re going to try everything and see what sticks. We’ll come up with some kind of scheme. There are some things I think we can do.”

Washington won the Century Conference this fall — its sixth straight conference title and seventh in eight years — then defeated Shady Side Academy, 21-7, and Freedom, 28-0, in the playoffs. The Little Prexies average 44.3 points per game and allow 11.3.

Brentwood finished second to Burgettstown in the Three Rivers Conference and has won 10 of its last 11 games.

The Spartans, who beat East Allegheny, 28-19, and Neshannock, 20-0, in the playoffs, average 24.4 ppg and give up 9.8 ppg.

“I give our kids a chance the way they’ve been playing,” Kisssel said. “We’ve improved as the year’s gone on. We played our best game of the year last week. We just can’t turn the ball over and we can’t take penalties.”

Washington’s catalyst is quarterback Zack Swartz, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior who has accounted for 2,687 yards and 45 touchdowns this season.

“He’s a really good player,” Kissel said. “What scares me more than anything is how he can run the ball.”

Swartz has completed 96 of 147 passes for 1,702 yards and 22 scores and rushed for 985 yards and 23 scores on 114 carries.

“I’m excited to play Brentwood,” he said. “It’s another challenge for us, and we’re prepared to take it on. We just need to play our game and not try to do too much.”

Ranked No. 1 in his class academically, Swartz is the fourth QB in WPIAL history to throw for 5,000 yards and rush for 2,000 for his career. He is the all-time leading passer in school history. He eclipsed the 6,000-yard career mark last week.

“Zack is a great football player and does a great job directing our offense,” Bosnic said. “Players like Zack don’t come around very often. He is very intelligent, and he is big, strong, fast and athletic.”

Another offensive force for the Little Prexies is senior running back Zahmere Robinson, who has 33 receptions for 622 yards and nine touchdowns and 643 yards and seven TDs on 47 carries.

Swartz (24 TDs), Robinson (17) and junior RB Shaliek Cox (17) lead the team in scoring.

The Spartans have become accustomed to being smaller than their opponent each week and the same dynamic exists for Friday’s contest.

But Brentwood hasn’t faced a lineup with the mammoth size of the Little Prexies.

“I don’t think any team we’re played this season has been the same size as us. They’ve all been bigger,” Kissel said. “Washington has five guys close to 300 (pounds). We’re playing two guys over 200.”

Gerald Comedy, a 6-3, 295-pound center who ranks second academically in the senior class, is the Class 2A finalist for the inaugural Bill Fralic Memorial Award, which will recognize the WPIAL’s most outstanding lineman in the name of Fralic, the late Penn Hills, Pitt and NFL standout.

Comedy is part of an experienced offensive line that also includes tackles Chase Mitchell (6-5, 350), a Liberty recruit, and Cameron Carter-Green (5-11, 270), and guards Isaiah Patterson (5-9, 210) and Zakhi Marshall (6-0, 295), who was selected in 2018 as the top lineman in the Interstate Conference by its coaches.

The Little Prexies’ defensive line is anchored by Marshall at nose guard, with Mitchell and junior Zack Doman (6-0, 315) at tackle, and Martez Thomas (6-2, 210), a senior, and Steven Patterson (6-0, 210), a junior, at end.

“They’re so big. I’ve never seen a team so big and physical at this level,” Kissel said. “They are physically imposing. They come right at you. They can beat you a lot of ways.”

Brentwood’s headliners are senior QB John Milcic and junior RB Aiden Wardzinski.

Milcic (6-4, 175) has racked up 2,361 yards in total offense, hitting on 111 of 208 passes for 1,594 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushing for 767 yards and eight TDs on 152 attempts.

“I’m really happy we have done what we said we wanted to do and make a good playoff run,” Milcic said. “Washington will be bigger up front than us, but it’s been that way all year, and coming off last week’s big win really helps us going up against them. I think other than the line, we match up good with them. Both teams have good athletes.”

Wardzinski (5-10, 180) leads the Spartans in rushing with 1,095 yards and 10 scores on 177 carries and receiving with 46 catches for 551 yards and four scores.

Senior wideouts Eddie Gomez (28-470) and Jayneil Latham (23-335) also are leading targets for Milcic.

Up front, the Spartans’ centerpiece is a 5-11, 200-pound senior lineman. Luke Bauer, along with being named first-team all-conference on offense and defense last year, was voted as the Three Rivers’ most valuable lineman.

Brentwood has posted five shutouts and has nine players who were starters in 2018: Bauer, junior Steven Bakowski and senior nose guard Matt Veatch on the line; Wardzinski, seniors Ian Thomas and Aidan Davis and sophomore Jack Wisenauer at linebacker; and Latham and Gomez in the secondary.

“Brentwood is a good football team,” Bosnic said. “They are well-coached, have good speed, and they play hard. We will need to limit mistakes and execute.”

The last time Washington and Brentwood met on the gridiron was in 2016 when the Little Prexies won a 61-27 decision in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

This season, Washington became the fourth school in WPIAL football history to log 700 victories — joining Jeannette, New Castle and Aliquippa — with a 58-16 nonconference win Sept. 7 against Summit Academy.

The Little Prexies have won seven WPIAL championships in school history.

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