Plum hosts Mt. Lebanon in battle of winless conference foes
By Michael Love
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The Plum football team is home for a second straight week, and, head coach Matt Morgan said, it doesn't get any easier for the Mustangs as they welcome Mt. Lebanon to Mustangs Stadium.
The 7 p.m. game features a matchup of 0-2 teams, and, Morgan said, his team is ready to face the challenge. He said the squad remains very positive despite the tough start in losses to Bethel Park, 38-0, in week one and to Baldwin, 38-6, last Friday.
“After we met Saturday and the kids went through their workout, they came in and promised me that they would treat practice more like games and put more effort into that,” Morgan said. “They want to change and continue to buy in. Hopefully, it helps turn things around on Friday nights.”
Morgan said Mt. Lebanon, despite a blowout loss to North Allegheny in week one and a 14-3 setback to Bethel Park last week, is better than their record would indicate.
“Mt. Lebanon is not an 0-2 team,” Morgan said.
“Their record may show that, but they have a lot of talent. They are like Bethel Park and Baldwin put together. They are a big, physical team like Bethel Park, and they have the speed like Baldwin. They made some mistakes that got them to where they were in their first two games. They are good, and it will be a challenge.”
Morgan said he is impressed with a pair of returning all-conference honorees in seniors Alex Bookser and Troy Apke.
Bookser, a big offensive and defensive linemen, has received a numerous Division I offers.
“Bookser will be something special at the next level,” Morgan said
“Very rarely do you see a kid with his size, strength and athleticism. He's a big-time player.”
Apke, who has made a verbal commitment to Penn State, led Mt. Lebanon in receiving last year with 54 catches for 1,048 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also is the Blue Devils' free safety.
“I am really impressed with (Apke),” Morgan said.
“He flies around the field and hits.”
Morgan said Plum came out against Baldwin stronger than it did against Bethel Park and took care of the ball, for the most part.
The game was scoreless in the second quarter before a blocked punt set Baldwin up at the Plum 5.
The Highlanders punched it in for a 7-0 lead.
“We have to continue eliminating mistakes that give (opponents) short fields,” Morgan said.
The Plum defense forced a turnover later in the quarter and turned it into a TD strike from Will Fuhrer to Patrick Crossey.
However, Baldwin answered with a touchdown in the closing minutes of the half to take a 14-6 advantage into the break.
Baldwin outscored Plum, 18-0, in the third quarter to put the game away.
“They came out in no-huddle and we kind of wore down a little bit,” Morgan said. “Their running back went off.”
Baldwin's Nick Barca finished with 218 rushing yards on 23 attempts. An 83-yard TD run in the third quarter accounted for a big chunk of the yardage.
Doug Altavilla added 143 yards passing and three touchdowns.
“The effort was there,” Morgan said.
“We did a nice job in the first half, but we didn't put it together in the second half.”
Plum had 112 yards rushing and was led by freshman Kevin Brown's 62 yards on six carries. Junior Zach Martin added 38 yards on nine rushing attempts.
Fuhrer completed 11 of 27 passes for 134 yards and the touchdown. He was intercepted once.
Crossey and sophomore Jason Hubner each caught four passes for 52 and 53 yards, respectively.
Wide receiver Phil Mahr suffered a knee injury Friday while blocking on a play.
Morgan said Mahr most likely will not play this week, but he doesn't think it will be something that will keep Mahr out of the lineup for an extensive period of time.
“Other than that, we are pretty healthy,” Morgan said.
Mt. Lebanon won last year's meeting, 49-14.
The Blue Devils upended Plum, 35-14, in the first round of the 2010 WPIAL Quad-A playoffs.
The Mustangs and the Blue Devils played a regular-season home-and-home series in 2006 and 2007.
Plum won, 24-21, in 2006 but lost, 20-13, in 2007.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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