A-K Valley high school football notebook: Semifinal loss ends historic season for Plum

Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 6:50 PM

Plum wrapped up its 2020 season Friday with a 20-17 loss to Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals, but the one defeat, Mustangs coach Matt Morgan said, takes nothing away from the record-setting performance of his team the entire season.

Plum (8-1) won eight games in a season for the first time since 1997, played in a WPIAL semifinal game for the first time since 1996 and finished the regular season undefeated for the first time since 1977.

The Mustangs, which defeated McKeesport 12-9 in the first round for the program’s first playoff victory since 2014, turned around recent fortunes. Plum went a combined 10-29 the previous four seasons after back-to-back playoff appearances in 2014 and 2015.

Experience leads

Apollo-Ridge ran into a buzzsaw Friday in the performance of Beaver Falls running back and Syracuse recruit Josh Hough, who tallied a career-best 368 yards and scored three touchdowns in the 50-27 WPIAL Class 2A semifinal victory.

It was a change of fortune for an experienced Vikings squad that otherwise made its mark with a highly successful 2020 season.

Apollo-Ridge finished 6-1 and played a WPIAL semifinal game for the first time in school history. The Vikings flexed their muscle in the first round with a 42-6 rout of WPIAL power Washington.

On Friday, senior quarterback Jake Fello threw for 239 yards and a touchdown, putting him at 1,230 yards and 15 touchdowns for the season. Fellow senior Klay Fitzroy caught six passes for 93 yards and totaled 695 yards through his team’s seven games.

Successful debut

When Plum takes the field again next fall, sophomore Eryck Moore will look to build on a breakout 2020.

In his first season with the team, Moore became the featured running back, finishing the season with 107 carries for 848 yards and 13 touchdowns.

He carried the ball 21 times in Friday’s loss to Thomas Jefferson and finished with 127 yards. His 6-yard touchdown in the second quarter gave Plum a 17-7 lead.

He surpassed 100 rushing yards in a game five times and tallied season-bests in yards (170) and touchdowns (3) in Plum’s 63-13 victory over Armstrong to cap the regular season.

Calling it a career

Apollo-Ridge senior Logan Harmon’s rushing totals Friday were under the norms for his senior year and his career, but he was able to deliver a pair of touchdowns.

He capped his final varsity season the Vikings at 920 yards and 18 touchdowns on 116 carries through seven games.

A four-year starter, Harmon finished with 3,353 yards rushing and 52 touchdowns. He had 15 games with more than 100 yards rushing.

Defensively, Harmon was a heavy hitter. He had 10 stops against Beaver Falls, giving him a team-best 42 for the season.

Turnover battles

Heading into Friday’s game with Thomas Jefferson, Morgan said forcing turnovers would be key against a high-powered Thomas Jefferson offense.

That mission paid dividends in the first half Friday as two takeaways, an interception and a fumble recovery, to a 17-7 lead.

Plum’s five turnovers forced against McKeesport, four interceptions and a fumble recovery, went a long way in helping the Mustangs to a close victory in the WPIAL first round.

For the season, the Plum defense turned its opponents over 19 times with 13 interceptions and six recovered fumbles.

Senior Zach Fields and junior Logan Brooks led the Mustangs with three picks apiece.

Curci to lead

Sophomore Nick Curci is expected to be featured prominently when a younger Apollo-Ridge team takes the field in 2021.

He led Vikings underclassmen in rushing yards (193), receiving yards (148) and total touchdowns (4).

Despite missing the Shady Side Academy game Oct. 9 because of injury, Curci finished third on the team in tackles (30) behind Harmon (42) and senior Lucas Yard (32).

Against Beaver Falls, Curci caught four passes for 69 yards and a touchdown and added six tackles.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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