Mt. Pleasant, GCC set for another rivalry showdown
Since Mt. Pleasant joined the WPIAL Class AA Interstate Conference in 2008, the Vikings never have beaten rival Greensburg Central Catholic at home.
Mt. Pleasant (1-0, 1-0), ranked third in the Trib Total Media poll, hopes that changes Friday night against the ninth-ranked Centurions (0-1, 0-1).
The teams have played five times, and both of the Vikings' wins came in thrilling fashion at Centurion Stadium.
In 2009, the Vikings used overtime to defeat GCC, 36-35, and in 2012, John Anys booted a 39-yard field goal with 37.2 seconds left in a 30-28 Vikings' win.
While Anys stole the spotlight last year, most of the highlights were provided by Mt. Pleasant senior running back Tyler Mellors and Greensburg Central Catholic senior quarterback Chase Keller.
Mellors rushed for 268 yards and three touchdowns, and Keller rushed for 140 yards and completed 10 of 21 passes for 167 yards. He threw two touchdown passes, but cramps in the second half made Keller a one-dimensional player.
Both are back this season.
“At least it's supposed to be a little cooler this week,” Greensburg Central Catholic coach Dan Mahoney said. “Cramps were a problem last week at Washington because it was so hot and humid. Keller's cramps last year hurt us, too.”
Mahoney said he was pleased with the way his defense held Washington running back Shai McKenzie down in the first half, but McKenzie was a difference-maker in the second half. He had 44 yards in the first half but finished with 234 yards and three touchdowns as Washington won, 26-14.
Mahoney admitted that McKenzie's electrifying 61-yard touchdown run to open the second half deflated his team.
“We had opportunities to score in the first half, and we hurt ourselves with penalties,” Mahoney said. “Shai is a special player, and he played at a different level in the second half.”
Keller was forced to throw more than Mahoney wanted because GCC's running game struggled. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 237 yards.
His main targets were tight end Nate Stone, who caught five passes for 105 yards, and running back Tyler Balla, who had five catches for 56 yards.
GCC faces the possibility of starting the season 0-2 for the second consecutive year. The Centurions ended up finishing fourth in the conference. It was the first time that they finished lower than second since they went to Class AA in 2002.
“We're excited about the challenge in front of us,” Mahoney said. “We've had some great practices, and the players are working hard to correct the mistakes we had at Washington. Mt. Pleasant is a very good team.”
Mt. Pleasant opened the season with a solid 33-14 victory against Waynesburg. Mellors rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Brett Fuss also scored twice in the victory.
Vikings coach Bo Ruffner said controlling Keller win be the key.
“He's the trigger man,” Ruffner said of Keller. “He has the ability to beat you with his arm and legs. Playing against him last year and watching film on him from last season, should help us be a little better prepared.
“I wouldn't say we were surprised with how he played last year. We knew he'd make some plays.”
Ruffner said he was pleased how his team performed in Week 1. He said Waynesburg is a better team that people think and predicted it will surprise some teams.
“We have a long way to go, just like everyone else,” Ruffner said. “We showed the players what they need to improve on. The team performed well for three quarters, and we did a nice job defensively.”
The duo of Mellors and quarterback Ryan Gumbita will test the Centurions defense, which is led by Stone and fellow linebacker Seth Warburton.
“Bo does an excellent job coaching that offense (Wing-T),” Mahoney said. “Sometimes, you know what's coming, but if you don't play sound, gap-control defense, you'll have problems. Mellors runs hard and you can lose him behind their big linemen.
“Chase had a nice game, but he needs improve.
“The offensive line is another area we have to be better.”