No. 1 Jeannette ‘lucky’ to escape in quarterfinals vs. Monessen
Humbled and counting their blessings, and thankful to to be moving on after a great escape, Jeannette football players wandered around the locker room with the look of a team that had just lost.
“We underestimated Monessen,” Jeannette junior Jackson Pruitt said. “Some of us thought they were going to come in here and lay their helmets down. We should have blown them out of the water.”
Jeannette coach Roy Hall added: “We’re lucky to get out of here with a win.”
Led by its fearless freshman quarterback, No. 8 seed Monessen nearly upset No. 1 and defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Jeannette on Friday night before falling, 18-14, in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal at Hempfield’s Spartan Stadium.
“If there is such a thing as a hangover, we had it,” Hall said, referring to his team’s win over Clairton in Week 9. “Monessen outplayed us.”
Jeannette (11-0) advances to play No. 5 Rochester (10-1) in the semifinals, its fourth straight trip to the WPIAL final four.
The teams will meet for the third straight year in the playoffs.
Some were expected a blowout. Monessen made sure it was anything but, giving the Jayhawks all they could handle.
Monessen (7-3) plowed through Jeannette on the opening drive, going 81 yards in 16 plays and draining 10 minutes off the clock.
Whitlock, who has more than 2,000 all-purpose yards this season, found Isaiah Beltram for a gain of 36 yards on the only pass play of the drive, before he scored on a 1-yard run. He added the 2-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Beltram injured his foot on the catch and did not return.
“This kid was playing midget football last year,” Hall said of Whitlock. “He is really fast, and we had trouble with him all night.”
Monessen forced a three-and-out and then Jeannette turned the ball over on downs after reaching the Greyhounds’ 7.
“Our goal was to get the ball first, run it and eat up the clock,” Monessen coach Mikey Blainefield said. “Our guys played great tonight, but penalties killed us. We have some guys who have not played on this stage before.”
Seth Howard appeared to get the corner and into the end zone but was ruled out at the 2.
The Jayhawks didn’t misfire on their next possession. Howard zipped a 41-yard scoring pass to Jackson Pruitt. The junior caught the pass at the 15-yard line and did the rest.
Howard’s 2-point run made it 8-8, and it stayed that way until halftime.
Monessen drove deep into Jayhawks territory again, with Whitlock completed three passes of 12 or more yards, to Marquell Smith, Elijah Davis and Justin Towler. But Pruitt intercepted Whitlock just before the half.
After another drive ended for Jeannette on downs despite some momentum offensively.
But the Jayhawks forced a punt and went 50 yards in eight plays with Howard finding Marcus Barnes for a 6-yard score to make it 15-8.
This is where Monessen crumbles, right? Not this Greyhounds team. Not with Whitlock.
After a 27-yard field goal by Emilio Huerta gave the Jayhawks a 10-point lead late in the third, Whitlock, Vaughn Taylor — and penalties — helped the Greyhounds strike again.
Whitlock finished with 124 yards passing, completing passes to six receivers, and 75 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Taylor ran for 78 yards.
Pruitt made a key tackle on the Greyhounds last drive, on fourth-and-27 from the Monessen 49.
The teams combined for 22 penalties for 230 yards.
Jeannette’s Jaden Crosby was ejected late in the game and will not be allowed to play next week.
Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] o
r via Twitter @BillBeckner.