Jackets look to shock rival Presidents

2014. That was the last time the Waynesburg University Yellow Jacket football team [1-8, 1-7] defeated their Interstate 79 rival, the Washington & Jefferson Presidents [6-3, 5-3].

The Jackets, who took No. 15 ranked Case Western Reserve down to the wire last Saturday before falling, 27-24,   want to finish the season off strong and to do that, they’ll look to defeat the Presidents for the first time in five years and just the fifth time since the series began in 1897.

No Slack for Flack

After last week’s performance, freshman running back Justin Flack became the first back in over two years to rush for 100-plus yards in four consecutive games after having 21 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown. Head coach Chris Smithley said Flack has improved week-in and week-out as the season has progressed.

“He gets better every week,” Smithley said. “If you give Justin six inches, he’s going to take you eight of those inches and he’s going to try to beat you with his foot speed. I think that’s what is special about Justin. He also has that mindset that he wants the ball, [and] that’s something you see in movies and read in books, big playmakers want the football.”

Flack heads into Saturday’s game ranked sixth in the PAC in rushing with 76.4 yards per game.

Conference Champions, not this time

Entering this game, the last two years, the Presidents entered the game either having already clinched or looking to clinch the PAC title as they did last season at John. F. Wiley Stadium.

It’ll be a slightly different feeling at Cameron Stadium in Washington, PA on Saturday though, as the PAC Championship has already been claimed by the Case Western Reserve Spartans, and the Presidents have dropped three games for the first time since 2013.

“Injuries have affected them,” Smithley said. “I think that everybody else in the conference is getting better and the competition is better from top to bottom. The games they’ve lost have been to good teams.”

A Yellow Jacket victory would give the Presidents their fourth loss in a season under head coach Mike Sirianni for only the second time in his 17 seasons.

Continuing to Improve

After losing to Carnegie Mellon and Grove City by 21 points or more, the Jackets have lost their last two games by a combined seven points.Despite the results not appearing in the record, Smithley and his staff are confident that the tough schedule down the stretch has allowed the team to continue to progress. 

“There’s a lot of positives,” Smithley said. “We have 100-yard rusher three weeks in a row and that hasn’t happened in five years against a good opponent. This end of the season is a tough stretch, run into some good competition, but one thing we’re pleased with how much we’re getting each week, and I think that’s something to build off of.”

Even though W&J has had a lot of success in recent years, it doesn’t change the approach for Smithley and the Jackets who plan to head north Saturday afternoon in search of a victory.

“We’ll give them credit for what they’ve accomplished and who they are,” Smithley said. “But we’re not going to prepare any differently.We’re going to expect to win this football game.”