Winless Plum looking at challenge in undefeated Upper St. Clair
Plum head coach Matt Morgan said after Friday's 33-10 loss to Penn Hills and again at the start of the week he was encouraged with the way his team played over the final 30 minutes of the contest with the Indians.
The Mustangs outscored Penn Hills, 10-7, in that time frame and had a long 20-play drive in the fourth-quarter end at the Indians 7 as time ran out in regulation.
“I hope we can carry that (good play) over to this week,” Morgan said.
Plum, 0-7 overall and in Quad Central play, hopes to bring the momentum gained to Friday's game against undefeated Upper St. Clair.
The Panthers are 7-0 and the No. 2 team in the Tribune-Review Quad-A rankings.
“The guys are excited for the opportunity to go against the top dog,” Morgan said.
“Hopefully, the kids respond to it. We have games coming up the next two weeks against playoff teams, and it will be a good challenge for the guys, especially for the carry over into next year.”
Upper St. Clair has won at least a share of its conference title in eight of the past 12 seasons, and the Panthers took a step towards another crown last week with a 28-13 victory over Bethel Park.
The Black Hawks were able to do what the previous five Upper St. Clair opponents were unable to do — score points.
The Panthers outscored five straight teams by a combined 204-0.
“They are well coached and are sound in every phase of the game,” Morgan said.
“They don't make the mistakes that most teams make. They make you make the mistake. They are stout up front. Everyone plays their position well. It's going to be a big challenge.”
Upper St. Clair is led by veteran head coach Jim Render, who has compiled a 371-118-6 record as a head coach at Uniontown and USC.
The Panthers are a senior-laden squad, and they even have a fifth-year senior in Rori Blair, a Pitt verbal commit.
Blair, a tight end, returned to the team this year after missing last season while recovering from a stroke suffered in 2012.
Mac Pope, a 6-foot, 220-pound running back, had two short first-half touchdown runs against Bethel Park, while fellow running back Stephen Mackowiak rushed for 94 yards and a score on five carries.
Trevor Morrow added a 7-yard TD run, and he totalled 76 yards on 16 carries.
The Plum running game broke out against Penn Hills to the tune of a season-best 206 yards.
Behind an offensive line that moved Indians defenders, the Mustangs ran the ball 58 times.
Junior Andrew Soxman led the way with 87 yards on 26 carries. Most of the carries came out of the direct-snap, wildcat formation.
Morgan said he wasn't sure if that type of running formation will continue this week against Upper St. Clair.
“We put in the offense earlier in the season and used it (against Penn Hills) because we knew that they had an explosive offense,” Morgan said.
“Our whole goal going into (Friday) was to control the clock and keep their offense off the field as much as possible. It went a lot better than I anticipated, and we kind of stuck with it. The offensive line, for the most part, dominated the line of scrimmage until they put 11 guys in the box. You can't cover everybody. Everyone who got their hands on the ball was successful.”
Soxman scored Plum's lone touchdown on a 3-yard run in the second quarter, and sophomore Jacob Chapla added a 33-yard field goal right before halftime.
Freshman Kevin Brown added 56 yards on 16 carries, while junior Nate Turchick rushed 12 times for 46 yards.
Penn Hills sophomore quarterback Billy Kisner was the stats star of the game. He called his own number on the jet option several times and finished with 229 yards on 18 carries.
Kisner tallied touchdown runs of 88 and 56 yards.
As a team, the Indians rushed for 316 yards on 28 carries.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.