Kevin Kissel isn’t the new coach on the block.
The longtime Brentwood football coach – the last 22 seasons as the head coach and 13 years before that as an assistant – has seen a lot of opponents since 1983.
None, however, quite like Washington.
“I’ve been doing this for a lot of years and this is physically the biggest team we’ve played against,” Kissel said of the Prexies. “They are big and physically imposing. I told our kids that if you are afraid of big guys then don’t bother showing up.”
Top-seeded Washington (12-0) will try to stave off another underdog in tonight’s WPIAL Class 2A semifinal game against fifth-seeded Brentwood (10-2). Kickoff at Chartiers Valley High School is 7 p.m.
Who advances to next weekend’s WPIAL championship against either Avonworth or Riverside could likely be determined by how well Washington exerts its size advantage up front.
All five players on the Prexies’ offensive line weight more than 200 pounds, including several that flirt with 300. Center Gerald Comedy, a finalist for the Bill Fralic Memorial Award given to the WPIAL’s most outstanding lineman, is 6-3, 295. Tackle Chase Mitchell, a Liberty recruit, is 6-5, 350 pounds. Guard Zakhi Marshall, the back-to-back lineman of the year in the Century Conference, is 6-0, 295. Cameron Carter-Greene and Isaiah Patterson complete the mass of humanity up front.
That group has allowed Washington to run for 3,203 yards, averaging 267 yards per game on the ground.
“That’s probably one of the biggest keys to this game is our play on the offensive and defensive lines,” said Washington coach Mike Bosnic. “If we are able to establish ourselves and be physical, we have the skill guys that can make plays.”
Brentwood has been smaller than most of its opponents on the line of scrimmage. The Spartans have only two linemen who weight more than 200 pounds, yet that hasn’t led to them shying away from a challenge. They defeated East Allegheny, 28-19, in the first round of the playoffs and shut out Neshannock last week, 20-0, to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2006.
A win tonight would lead to Brentwood’s first appearance in a district title game since 1986.
“We are excited,” Kissel said. “We will throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. Our guys know that they are the underdog. We’ve been the underdog. That’s a role they like. We’ve been playing bigger teams all year. We aren’t going to line up in a Power-I (formation) and run straight at them. We aren’t that stupid.”
Brentwood quarterback John Milcic and running back Aiden Wardzinski have given opponents fits. Milcic, a dual-threat quarterback, has 2,361 yards of total offense and 23 total touchdowns. Wardzinski has 1,095 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.
Kissel knows Washington, which is trying to appear in its third WPIAL title in the last three seasons, is more than just a big team.
“They have been No. 1 all year for a reason,” he said. “Nothing’s soft. Everything looks solid. They are a solid football team all the way around. They’ve been killing teams all year.”
Do-it-all athlete Zahmere Robinson has taken on more of a running back role for the Prexies this postseason with 20 carries in two games. He has 728 rushing yards and 640 yards receiving on the season.
“We just need to continue to play like we can,” Bosnic said. “Just limit mistakes, fumbles and penalties and not beat ourselves. We need to play a clean game. Everything else will hopefully take care of itself.”