With a 2-1 overall record, the Shenango High football team already has doubled its win total from 2018.
The Wildcats, though, will have an extra challenge Friday to keep the momentum going as they will be traveling to Serra Catholic without the services of their leading rusher, Reis Watkins.
Watkins, who also is the county’s third-leading rusher with 349 yards on 60 carries, was ejected late in the fourth quarter of the ‘Cats’ 21-14 win over Western Beaver on Saturday after he came off the sideline of Frank Bongivengo Field to get involved in a skirmish with Western Beaver’s Austin Jones. Jones had just been flagged for a personal foul against kicker Aidan Johnston at the end of a Golden Beavers kickoff return, and Watkins was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected from the game after he gave Jones a retaliatory shove. The ejection carries an automatic disqualification for the team’s next game.
The late hit from behind on Johnston was the second time the Shenango kicker had been on the short end of a personal foul call against the Golden Beavers. With just over a minute to go in the first half, Johnston had been preparing to try a 32-yard field goal when a request for a timeout appeared to come from the Western Beaver sideline.
A whistle for the time out blew, but the ball was snapped a Western Beaver defender continued to charge and level Johnston.
Johnston had to come off the field, leaving Shenango to attempt instead a fourth-down run, which failed.
Naturally, Shenango head coach Jimmy Graham was not happy about the two hits on his kicker, but he also was disappointed with the response that will cause Watkins to sit out the team’s next game.
“That’s one of those things where we let the emotion of the game get in our head a little bit,” he said. “I’ve talked to Reis about it. The unfortunate thing is we lose him as a leader on the team and as one of our starters on both sides of the ball.
“When you’re winning by three touchdowns, that doesn’t happen to the team that’s winning. That’s what happens to the team that’s down three touchdowns, not the team up three touchdowns. They wanted us to fall into their trap, and we did. That shows a little bit of our youth. Hopefully, we learn from it and we understand the officials regulate the game, we don’t regulate it as a player.”