Top-ranked Jeannette uses strong 2nd quarter surge to cruise past rival GCC
Jeannette crowned another homecoming queen Friday night. On the field, the Jayhawks showed why they’re the new king in the Class A rankings.
Playing their second game as the Trib’s new No. 1 team, the unbeaten Jayhawks rolled past visiting Greensburg Central Catholic, 55-7, in an Eastern Conference game at McKee Stadium.
The win was the fourth in a row for Jeannette (8-0, 6-0) in the teams’ series. The rivals have played 16 straight seasons since 2001, with the Jayhawks winning 10.
GCC, improved from a year ago and gaining experience for a young team, fell to 3-5, 2-3.
After a slow-starting opening quarter, Jeannette piled up 35 second-quarter points and never flinched.
Jeannette looks the part as the top-ranked team.
“Myself and our staff try to keep it all in perspective,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “We tell our kids that everybody is shooting for you to knock you off. With the tradition we have, people are always coming at us. Now with (the ranking) they’re really trying to come at us.”
Zack Berginc rushed for a score, and multi-dimensional Robert Kennedy threw for two scores and ran for another as Jeannette took a 42-0 lead into halftime.
“That second quarter it just snowballed,” said GCC coach Aaron Smetanka, who made his first visit to Jeannette. “They rolled from there. I thought we were moving the ball well, but we had a big turnover. That was a missed opportunity — and penalties was a big thing tonight.”
Imani Sanders hauled in a 56-yard score and Tre Cunningham caught a 22-yarder from Kennedy, who has thrown for 18 touchdowns and rushed for 15 this season.
He ran for 83 yards and passed for 78 in this win.
He has accounted for 2,067 yards of total offense in eight games.
The defense also helped put six on the board: Kaelan Piscar recovered a fumble on a kickoff return and Seth Howard took the next handoff 34 yards to make it 28-0. Piscar recovered another fumble in the second half.
Howard added another score early in the third, and threw for a score.
“They have so many athletes,” Smetanka said. “The guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as the guys starting for them. That makes it tough to try and simulate during the week. The plays where we should have had them wrapped up, that’s what really irritates me. Our guys were rolling right off them.”
Jeannette was dominant, but not completely sharp.
“We started slow; a lot of penalties took us out of the game early,” Hall said. “Believe me, I’m not a fan. When you have 15 penalties, that’s a drawback. We came out strong in the second quarter. There are just some things we have to fix.”
Trickery led to Jeannette’s first score. Marcus Barnes caught a 43-yard touchdown from Howard on a halfback pass.
Melik Gordon’s interception set up the score.
Anthony Johnson blocked a punt and Jalen Jones knocked GCC quarterback Max Pisula back 11 yards with a sack for Jeannette.
Jayson Cox also had a touchdown run for Jeannette.
GCC’s score came late in the fourth.
Backup quarterback Bruce Leonard found Brandon Brown for a 38-yard gain, and Zach Kuvinka ran in from the 3 to make it 55-7.
Jeannette has a nonconference game next week against Mapletown before the much-anticipated showdown with Clairton on the road in two weeks.
“We have to hope we stay healthy and don’t have any injuries,” Hall said. “Is that game in the back of my mind? Absolutely. But we have an exhibition game and then we can start getting ready for the Clairton Bears.”
Despite the loss, GCC remains in the playoff chase.
“We have played the best in the WPIAL,” Smetanka said. “They’re going to go very far, I’m sure. This (game) is over and done with. I’m about the future, even after we win. We win a game, we can be in the playoffs. That’s what we’re focused on.”
Tom Voelker rushed for 67 yards for the Centurions.