Imani Christian WR Hart named Trib HSSN Week Zero Player of the Week
Simple math says zero equals nothing. Things weren’t so simple on the first Saturday of the new high school football season where zero meant a record-setting performance for Imani Christian.
The Saints scored 44 first-quarter points, and their offense kept rolling downhill and into the end zone on nearly every possession in an 80-6 mauling of Richard Wright Charter out of Washington, D.C.
There were plenty of kudos to go around for the 2017 WPIAL Class A runners-up, but the TribLive High School Sports Network selected senior wide receiver R.J. Hart as the Week Zero Player of the Week.
The former Plum Mustang was in giddy-up mode from the first play from scrimmage when he took a short pass from Israel Reed, split two defenders and dusted all others for a 44-yard touchdown only 9 seconds into the game.
Hart showed off all of his skills, catching slants in traffic in the end zone, showing off his leaping skills while pulling in lob jump ball passes in the corner of the end zone and turning short passes and screens into long touchdowns with a noticeable burst of speed and power in breaking tackles along with way to pay dirt.
“R.J. is playing at a different level,” Imani Christian coach Ronnell Heard said after the game. “He has always had the size but was criticized by some for not having good hands or great speed. I challenged him to prove everybody wrong, and he has worked hard to do that. He is as strong as an ox. Now he just steps out of tackles. If he keeps growing, he has a very bright future.”
For the day, Hart had eight catches for 286 yards and six touchdowns on scoring receptions of 44, 51, 7, 34, 58 and 44 yards as the Saints proved they are back as a contender for gold in 2018.
WPIAL Week Zero Honorable Mentions:
Zack Swartz, Washington
The defending WPIAL Class 2A champion Little Prexies are off and running ... err passing. Quarterback Zack Swartz hit on 16 of 20 passes for 375 yards and three first-half touchdown tosses of 62, 74 and 28 yards in Washington’s 59-25 triumph over visiting Laurel Highlands.
Michael Daure, Keystone Oaks
Many felt Keystone Oaks would lean on sophomore quarterback Logan Schrubb early on, but it was the ground attack led by Michael Daure that was impressive against Seton LaSalle. Daure rushed for 249 yards and five touchdowns, including a 63-yard punt return in the Golden Eagles’ 56-19 rout.
Connor Barrett, Chartiers Valley
All eyes were on the visiting coach, Mike Zmijanac of Ringgold, at Chartiers Valley’s season opener. By the final whistle, they had shifted to the home team’s senior running back. Connor Barrett rushed for 197 yards on only nine carries, with four of those jaunts ending in the end zone, as the Colts blanked the Rams, 48-0.
Zach Cernuto, Southmoreland
Week Zero allows rivalry to continue. But is it a rivalry when one school hasn’t beaten the other in more than two decades? It is now. Southmoreland quarterback Zach Cernuto was 16 of 26 passing for 279 yards, including an 11-yard pass to Brandon Peterson, as the Scotties beat Mt. Pleasant for the first time since 1995 by an 18-14 score.
Derek Johncour, Avonworth
A tight first-half clash between Class 2A powers turned in the visitor’s favor thanks to a big night through the air for the ’Lopes. Derek Johncour hit on 24 of 30 passes for 347 yards and tossed four touchdown aerials, including three to Turner Grau as the Antelopes outscored Neshannock, 21-0, in the second half of a 49-21 triumph.
Bonus Mention -- Shaler Titans
After not winning a football game since October of 2015, Shaler wasted little time in picking up a long-awaited W in the 2018 season. The Titans visited Lawrence County and stunned New Castle, 34-21, to end a 24-game losing streak.