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High School Sports

Plum faces a brutal schedule with a small, inexperienced team

| Sunday, Aug. 24, 2003

Plum juggled 31 players on defense and 24 on offense on the way to a 2-8 record last season, 1-5 in the Quad South.

With an extremely tough schedule, limited size and question marks just about everywhere, things may get worse before they get better for the Mustangs.

"We had a difficult year last year," Plum coach Bill Rometo said. "We played a lot of kids. the big thing right now is we've got to get some cohesiveness, get some consistency. We did not have a set unit last year and that hurt."

Plum returns only four starters -- wide receiver Kelly Fisher, defensive end Matt Kachurik, offensive tackle Mark Bentz and linebacker John Simmons. The Mustangs will spend their two weeks of preseason and non-conference games against Fox Chapel and Penn Hills filling out the rest of the starting spots.

"We have to use a ton of people in our two scrimmages and use the exhibition games to get ready for that first section game (against Franklin Regional)," Rometo said. "We have a good shot at one of the four playoff berths, but everything has to fall into place.

"This kind of year is kind of exciting. You don't know what is going to happen with so many question marks. Everybody on the team should think they have a chance of playing. They should see that things are open."

Fox Chapel was a playoff team last season. Penn Hills and Upper St. Clair, another non-conference opponent, are Quad-A powers. Quad South rivals Gateway and Kiski Area are also among the top teams.

"It's a brutal schedule," Rometo said. "Every week will be a challenge."

Rometo favors a pro-style offense with a strong passing game. One of the two players battling for the quarterback job should know that well. The coach's son, sophomore Gino Rometo, will compete with senior Matt Pellis to start there. Pellis could also end up at wide receiver.

"Gino is more of a quarterback," Rometo said. "Matt is just a great all-around athlete. We might develop a package with Matt as a slash-type player. We like to be wide open, to keep the other guy guessing."

Simmons and junior Phil Mains are the options at running back, with Kachurik moving to fullback. Fisher should catch a lot of passes as the Mustangs' primary receiver.

Bentz provides Plum's only real experience and size up front at 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, although the Mustangs did finish last season starting younger players on the line, including junior guard Chris Anastasio and junior tackle Joe Hadley.

Simmons, Hadley and Anastasio should also be keys on defense, competing with Zach Erdeljac for the three linebacker positions. Kucharik was an all-conference pick at defensive end as a junior. Bentz could also play defensive tackle.

Mains and Chris Glarner will play the corners with LaMark Ingram, son of local TV news broadcaster Sheldon Ingram, at safety.

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