Methodical approach keys Vikings' victory
Mt. Pleasant coach Mark Lyons said, for him, patience was a key component in Friday's Keystone Conference matchup against Belle Vernon. Lyons used up a good bit of that patience, but it was worth it. The Vikings scored 10 unanswered points in the final quarter to get past the visiting Leopards, 10-7.
"I wrote myself a little note, and it said, 'Be patient,' " Lyons said. "I don't know if I was patient enough in the first half. I was kind of upset with myself for not being patient, so I tried to be patient in the second half."
Mt. Pleasant (3-1, 2-0) had possession for all but a few minutes of the first half, but the team's own impatience cost it. The Vikings' offense was flagged for four false starts in the first half. One of those penalties put the Vikings in a second-and-16 situation in the second quarter from which they couldn't recover, and two plays after the ensuing punt, Belle Vernon tailback Shane Curran broke a few tackles and ran 72 yards for a touchdown. Adam Gillingham's extra point gave the Leopards a 7-0 lead.
Curran had 126 yards on 10 carries.
Mt. Pleasant got the ball back for a 15-play drive that took them inside Belle Vernon's 10, but Matt Remaley's 26-yard field goal attempt was no good, and the Vikings went into the locker room still trailing.
Mt. Pleasant continued to control the ball in the second half, but the defensive efforts of Jeff Ambrose and Jon Krepps kept the Vikings scoreless through the third quarter. But Ambrose, Krepps, and the rest of the Leopards' defensive corps eventually began to tire.
"That's their game plan," Belle Vernon coach Lou Rood said of the Vikings. "They have a big offensive line, and they try to wear you down. They were able to do it."
Lyons confirmed that it was Mt. Pleasant's plan to use big guards Aaron Zelmore, Brandon Bunting, Alex Bates and the rest of the offensive line to wear out the Leopards' defense.
Harlen Funk, Rob Gumbita and Patrick Heskey also made some nice blocks for workhorse Jake Hoffer, who had 32 carries for 129 yards. But it wasn't until the fourth quarter that Hoffer cashed in on all that blocking.
Dan Sivak sparked Mt. Pleasant's first possession of the quarter by hauling in a nice pass from Mike Sawlsville to get inside the Belle Vernon 35, and Hoffer took it from there, carrying on the next five plays and going 9 yards to cap the drive with a touchdown. Remaley booted the extra point for a 7-7 tie.
The Vikings forced a punt on the Leopards' next possession, and Sivak and Hoffer again worked the ball downfield. Tough defense from Ambrose, Krepps and Don Tasser stalled the drive inside the 5, but Remaley made up for his earlier miss by sending a 20-yard field goal through the uprights with 1:20 left.
Incomplete passes and an ill-timed penalty had Belle Vernon (0-4, 0-1) turning the ball over on downs with under a minute to play, and the Vikings ran off the remaining time to seal the win.