Last year’s renewel of a rivalry between Washington and McGuffey, which was dormant since 2009, caught the attention of football fans throughout the Washington area.
The Interstate Conference championship was on the line, the Prexies were trying to finish off an undefeated regular season and plenty of talking was done before kickoff. It lived up to the hype when Wash High completed a come-from-behind win and owned bragging rights for 12 months, but the result on that chilly night is a distant memory.
A new set of faces moved to the front in 2015 and Wash High already secured its second consecutive conference championship, but the buzz remains high.
The Prexies (7-0, 8-0) will host McGuffey (5-2, 6-2) tonight at Wash High Stadium in what is now being labeled, “The Interstatement Game.” Kickoff is 7 p.m.
“They are really, really good,” McGuffey head coach Ed Dalton said of Wash High. “I’ve not seen South Fayette, but I’d probably say Wash High is the best team in the state and I’ve seen Aliquippa. They look like they are three or four touchdowns better than Aliquippa and I’m not making that up.”
A win reinforces Wash High’s bid for one of the top seeds in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs, but the Highlanders can secure third place with an upset and avenge last season’s loss.
“We definitely want revenge,” McGuffey senior wide receiver Shaun Sanders said. “A win would just be huge for us with the grudge we have with them, and it would help with our morale. That would be big heading into the playoffs.”
Unlike last season, when the Highlanders carried a seven-game winning streak into the Week 9 matchup and had a veteran-laden lineup with a physically imposing offensive line, they only have seven seniors this fall.
The Prexies, meanwhile, are allowing just 5.3 points per game, which ranks second in the WPIAL, and their 49.4 points per game is second-best in Class AA.
“It’s a rivalry week and it’s a big week for us,” Wash High head coach Mike Bosnic said. “It’s been a big game and a good game the last few times we’ve gotten together with McGuffey. It’s always tough when emotions are involved and McGuffey brings a lot to the table. It’s going to be a challenge.”
Dalton has been a fixture at youth football games since his early days as head coach at Trinity. When Wash High’s current senior class was running over the competition in youth football, he took note of each name – Nate Swart, Jordan West, Kurt Adkins and Thomas Cherry.
It is a group that carried its success into high school and is looking to cap another undefeated regular season in front of a home crowd that will likely be standing-room only, but Dalton said is the addition of players such as senior lineman Khalid Blount – NFL Hall of Famer Mel Blount’s son – and senior quarterback/defensive back Markel Pulliam are what make the Prexies difficult to match up with.
“Those seniors they have were dominating as youth players and then you add six kids who transferred into the district; they’re unbelievable,” Dalton said. “To that mix of Swart, Cherry, Adkins and West, you add Blount, Pulliam and on and on. They would be a handful without those kids, but with them, it’s ridiculous.”
One of the biggest challenges the Prexies will face is Highlanders quarterback Marcus Czulewicz, who has gained more than 1,500 total yards and scored 22 touchdowns. The Highlanders plan to run their no-huddle offense to counteract the Prexies’ size, but the defense has been inconsistent.
The group will try to slow down the Prexies’ offense, including their senior running backs – Adkins and West – who have combined for 1,612 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. First-year starting quarterback Markel Pulliam, who did not play football last season after moving into the district from Florida, also has 19 total touchdowns
“This is a very big rivalry,” Pulliam said. “The kids from the schools know each other, they talk to each other. It’s something you look forward to. This is definitely a special week. They might get us on a few plays, but we’re smart and we’ll pick up on it. It will be a good game and I think we’ll come out on top.”