Plum eager to break losing streak in season finale
The Plum football team closes out its season Friday with a nonconference game at Pine-Richland, and it's the final opportunity for the Mustangs to break through and get a win.
Head coach Frank Sacco said his players deserve to taste victory.
“The kids haven't backed down all year, and they won't on Friday,” Sacco said.
“I've been impressed with the mental toughness of this group. Monday through Thursday, they come to practice ready to go. They have created a bond and grown in a positive manner through adversity. They remain focused and continue to improve. That's a testament to their character.”
Plum suffered a 31-0 loss to Upper St. Clair on Friday. It was the Mustangs' 14th loss in a row dating back to last season.
The Panthers are the No. 3-ranked team in the Tribune-Review Quad-A rankings.
The game was only 10-0 at the half before the Panthers put the game away over the final 24 minutes.
“It was a close first half, and I was impressed with the resiliency of our players,” Sacco said.
“They came out and played hard, especially on defense. They were flying around and hitting hard. We just had some trouble moving the ball.
“Upper St. Clair is the second-ranked defense in Quad-A right now. Everyone is having trouble moving the ball on them. There were spurts where we would move the ball, and then they would shut it down.”
Seniors Jai Major and Jake DiGuilio made 13 and 10 tackles, respectively, against USC to lead the Plum defense.
Sacco confirmed that Plum will not play a game in week 10.
The Rams, who are 3-5 overall and finished their Quad North slate at 2-5, were eliminated from playoff contention last week with an 18-10 loss to North Hills.
Pine-Richland owns conference victories over Fox Chapel, 28-5, and Shaler, 49-6, and the Rams also upended Kiski Area, 31-14, in nonconference play.
“The record might not show it, but Pine-Richland has a pretty good football team,” Sacco said. “They have a lot of weapons.”
Rams quarterback Ben DiNucci, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, surpassed 1,000 yards passing last week
He has seven touchdown passes on the season, including a 57-yarder for the only touchdown against the Indians.
Sophomore wideout Luke Merhaut is one of the leading receivers in the WPIAL. He has more than 500 receiving yards, and he hauled in DiNucci's TD toss against North Hills.
Merhaut finished the game with six catches for 81 yards.
Another sophomore, Conner Slomka, rushed for 149 yards against North Hills, and he eclipsed the 800-yard mark for the season.
Slomka has six rushing scores over the Rams' eight games.
Pine-Richland led North Hills, 10-0, in the second quarter before the Indians rallied.
“They have a potent offense, and it will be a challenge to stop,” Sacco said. “They run a 4-4 defense and are tough up front. If we can get the offense on track this week, we have a good shot.”
Plum and Pine-Richland will meet for the first time in 48 years. The teams played from 1961 to 1964, and the Mustangs won three of the four games, including a 21-0 shutout in the 1964 matchup.
Kickoff on Friday is at 7:30 p.m.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.