Staff Writer

Luke Campbell has been handling a multitude of tasks since joining the Observer-Reporter in 2015, following his graduation from Waynesburg University. He graduated from Waynesburg with a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcasting and information.

Wash High football

Washington’s Curtis Gardner carries the ball during the WPIAL Class AA title game against Steel Valley at Joe Walton Stadium on the campus of Robert Morris University on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.

CORAOPOLIS – Over the past several years, there was a familiar scenario that played out for the Washington High School football team.

Whether it’s the fear of the Prexies’ size, speed or sheer athleticism, opponents squirm when they play the Prexies in the regular season. There is a quiet confidence the Prexies have during pregame warmups that fills the stadium and parking lots. They make sure to let the opponents know they are there.

But in recent seasons, when it was playoff time, Washington had not made much noise.

Overshadowing three consecutive undefeated regular seasons was three years of watching football on Thanksgiving weekend rather than playing in WPIAL championship games.

The Prexies found themselves in shock as the last two seasons ended to lower-seeded teams, a 24-14 loss to Freeport in 2015 and a 27-7 loss to Neshannock last year.

“Tears. Heads down. Arguing. It’s been rough,” senior offensive lineman Myckel Brown said about the quiet locker rooms and long bus rides that followed those games.

“For three years, it’s been really tough.”

But as Brown ran 50 yards downfield, stride for stride with best friend and senior teammate Isaiah Schoonmaker to make the final block to spring the latter for a third-quarter touchdown, it put three years in the past and left them there.

It also showed how badly Brown and the 15 other Washington seniors, who had known nothing but WPIAL playoff heartbreak, wanted what they believed was theirs Saturday night.

“My knee popped out in practice this week,” Brown said. “My coaches maybe thought I wasn’t going to play, but I’m going to tell you one thing, I never questioned it.”

If it wasn’t Brown’s block, then it was senior Curtis Gardner, who entered Saturday night’s WPIAL championship game against Steel Valley with 17 carries for 102 yards all season.

Runs of 75 and 34 yards – Gardner’s only two carries on the night – had him eclipsing his season total and leading the Prexies in rushing yards.

If it wasn’t Gardner, leave it to Schoonmaker – the leader of the group – to will Wash High to a victory.

Schoonmaker ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown pass, threw a successful two-point conversion pass, blocked a punt and led the Prexies with 9 ½ tackles in their 37-10 victory in the Class AA championship game at Robert Morris University’s Joe Walton Stadium.

“The last three years our heads were too hyped,” Schoonmaker said. We were playing games ahead of one another, talking about winning a state title before playing a playoff game. This year, we practiced. We studied. Tonight, we came out and executed.”

The elder Wash High players drilled into the their younger teammates just how elusive a WPIAL championship experience can be.

“I know this particular group of guys, and these seniors in particular,” Bosnic said. “They took last year’s playoff loss extremely hard. They really, really wanted this.”

When Bosnic took over as the head coach in 2009, he knew this day would come. He just didn’t think it would take 102 games, 83 wins and 19 losses, to get there.

“The main thing that attracted me to this job was the great history and pride this program has. It’s been a long, long road. It’s been a tough road. But this tonight is something you dream about.”

As the Prexies’ seniors walked off the turf with long-awaited smiles, and tears of joy rather than sadness, they can say they are champions.

Staff writer Luke Campbell can be reached at lcampbell@observer-reporter.com.

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