No. 3 Mt. Pleasant wins, sets up showdown with Washington
Every baseball team has its closer — the guy they go to in the final inning to end an opponent's rally.
Mt. Pleasant football coach Bo Ruffner has his own closer: running back Tyler Mellors.
With No. 3 Mt. Pleasant clinging to a one-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter, Ruffner went to his top option, and Mellors responded.
Mellors, who rushed for a season-high 259 yards, scored two of his three touchdowns in the final quarter to carry Mt. Pleasant to a 35-21 homecoming win against Jeannette on Friday at Vikings Stadium.
The victory, along with No. 5 Washington's win at Brownsville, sets up an Interstate Conference first-place battle Friday at Washington.
Mt. Pleasant (6-0, 6-0) also clinched home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“The one thing that was exciting about this game was it was homecoming, and our players knew if we won this game we'd have a home playoff game,” Ruffner said. “That was a lot to play for.”
Mellors started quickly. He opened the scoring with a 1-yard run, and he had more than 100 yards in the first quarter as Mt. Pleasant built a 21-7 lead.
After Mellors scored, Jeannette (4-2, 4-2) tied the score one play later when quarterback Julian Batts tossed a 71-yard strike to Zach Altieri.
Ryan Ballew and Brett Fess scored touchdown runs to give the Vikings a 21-7 lead after one quarter.
Penalties and two turnovers plagued Jeannette in the opening quarter.
“I'm at a loss for words about penalties,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “I'm so disgusted with them. I just don't know how to fix it. We've tried everything.
“Then we didn't block very well on offense. We called a great defense, but we can't tackle. When the defense stepped up, the offense sputtered.”
Mt. Pleasant sacked Batts 10 times during the contest.
“We practiced all week containing the quarterback,” Ballew said. “Our defensive ends got good pressure and our linebackers made good reads.
“It's a nice win to have, but now we can look forward to next week. Washington is a really good team. We have to keep winning and get better.”
Jeannette's Davie Headen fielded a punt that no one on Mt. Pleasant downed and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown to cut the Vikings lead to 21-14 at halftime.
“What happened at the end of the first half, I'll take the blame on that,” Ruffner said. “I've almost never seen that happen in high school football.”
Heading into the fourth quarter, Ruffner turned to the running game and defense to close things out.
“We have so much faith in our running game, so we put it in Tyler's hands,” Ruffner said. “Obviously we kept feeding Tyler. We pounded the football, and the offensive line responded.”
Mellors scored on runs of 7 and 16 yards for Mt. Pleasant in the fourth quarter.
Batts completed 13 of 23 passes for 238 yards and two scores. Miles Sunder caught four passes for 100 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown pass.