WASHINGTON, Pa. -- The building sits no more than a mile from the highway, but the short distance between Washington High School and Interstate 70 provides insight into a community hurting to hold onto its proud traditions.
The severe coal mining decline in Western Pennsylvania hit the blue-collar community hard, and Jefferson Avenue, the state highway between the school and interstate, is lined with several struggling or boarded up businesses.
“We’re kind of a downtrodden community,” Mike Bosnic said. “A lot of the businesses have packed up and left. But we’re one of those coal towns where football still means a lot.”
So when Shai McKenzie quit the football team for a 24-hour period during his freshman season in 2010, he had an entire town to make it up to.
“You can’t really quit on your teammates and community,” McKenzie said.
In the two years since, the 2014 running back has become one of Pennsylvania’s best players. As a junior, he rushed for 2,689 yards and 42 touchdowns and the likes of Arkansas, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin highlight his 22 offers.