But the Jeannette Jayhawks prevail, 35-34, to win another WPIAL title
With coaches from the past looking on from the press box—Joe Mucci, Bob Murphy and Art Tragesser among them—Jeannette used a big fourth-quarter rally to capture its ninth WPIAL football championship with a 35-34 victory over Imani Christian (11-3) in the Class A Title Game Saturday, Nov. 25, at Robert Morris’ Joe Walton Stadium.
Jeannette (13-1) tied New Castle for the most wins in WPIAL football history, with 734.
There have been many teams in the legendary history of Jeannette football that were rich in talent, so why was this one so special?
“Ten years ago today, we won a championship and one of the big things, I was 0-3 in WPIAL championships,” said Roy Hall, Jeannette’s first African American Coach. “Getting Clairton off our back: Huge. Winning the WPIAL championship: Huge. Tying the WPIAL record for most wins: Huge. This is for all my past players, my assistant coaches, and these players who played their hearts out. I have great people all around me. Winning heals all wounds.”
Imani Christian took an early 12-0 first quarter lead. Asante Watkins scored on a 1-yard run and Sam Fairley scooped up a fumble and raced 43-yards for the score.
Jeannette has a history of great dual-threat quarterbacks. Names like; Dick Hoak, Adam Bostick, Dante Wiley, Demetrious Cox, Jordan Hall, Gio Vonne Sanders and Terrelle Pryor.
Robert Kennedy, whose nickname is Poogie, is perhaps the most exciting player in the WPIAL. As the team’s starting quarterback, he completed 79 of 142 passes for 1,294 yards and 24 touchdowns. He’s rushed for an additional 1,057 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a defensive back, he has eleven interceptions and taken four to the house.
In the second quarter, Kennedy threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Barnes.
Seth Howard’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Tre Cunningham and 51-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Winters gave the Jayhawks a 21-12 halftime lead.
Backup quarterback, Israel “Izzy” Reed, inserted into the lineup after halftime because of an injury to starting quarterback Tawan Wesley.
Reed said he didn’t try to do anything special in the WPIAL Class 1A football championship. Imagine if he had. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Imani junior quarterback put on a big show on the big stage, passing for 118 yards, two touchdowns, and rushing for 75 yards. Reed also had six tackles.
“We have two wonderful quarterbacks and Tawan is a great senior leader for his team,” Coach Ronnell Heard said. “Sam Fairley and Rahmon Hart Jr. are two of the best receivers in the WPIAL, so all those guys combined, we’re hard to defend.”
“Izzy” Reed opening the third quarter with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Rahmon “RJ” Hart. Fairley passed to Reed for the two-point conversion cut the Jayhawks lead to 21-20.
Asante Watkins ended the quarter with an 11-yard touchdown run and another Fairley pass to Reed for the two-point conversion to give the Saints a 28-21 lead.
Kennedy scored on 4-yard and 10-yard touchdown runs to give the Jayhawks a 35-28 fourth-quarter lead. Two of the most under-rated football players are Imani’s junior defensive players, Brian Yates (6-2, 210), and Isaiah Clark (6-4, 260).
Yates had 13 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and one sack.
Clark recovered a fumble for the Saints that led to a score.
Near the end of the game, “Izzy” Reed threw a 12-yard touchdown to “Big Play” Ray Jackson to cut the lead to 35-34, and Imani Christian decided to go for the WPIAL 1A Title win. But, Sam Fairley’s pass was intercepted by “Poogie” Kennedy, sealing the title for the Jeannette Jayhawks.
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