After reaching playoffs, Mt. Pleasant, East Allegheny set new goal: A postseason win

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Wednesday, November 2, 2022 | 7:09 PM


One of the goals for almost every high school football team is to qualify for the playoffs.

The next goal is to advance.

That’s what No. 9 East Allegheny and No. 8 Mt. Pleasant will be attempting Friday during the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs at Mt. Pleasant Area Vikings Stadium. The reward for the winner is a date with No. 1 Belle Vernon (7-2).

“This is the fourth consecutive year we’ve made the playoffs, so it’s a big deal,” Mt. Pleasant coach Jason Fazekas said. “We’re excited to get another home game. It’s the goal every year to make the playoffs.”

The Vikings and the Wildcats, once Keystone Conference rivals, have met 17 times over the years with the Vikings owning a 12-5 edge. They first met in 1973 and played 11 consecutive times before the Wildcats dropped to Class 2A.

They renewed their series in 2008 and played six times with the Vikings winning the final five. They last played in 2013, when the Vikings won 55-23.

Both teams won first-round games in 2021. Mt. Pleasant blasted Burrell, 41-7, and East Allegheny ran past Southmoreland, 36-11. Both then lost in the quarterfinals.

Mt. Pleasant easily defeated South Allegheny and Southmoreland to end the season after losses to No. 3 Elizabeth Forward and No. 1 Belle Vernon.

East Allegheny comes into the game following a 42-10 loss at Shady Side Academy. Both teams lost to Freeport and Elizabeth Forward and defeated Valley, Greensburg Salem and South Allegheny.

“We’re excited that the WPIAL decided to give us a home game,” Fazekas said. “East Allegheny has a lot of skill and they move players around. We’ll have to play well to beat them.”

The Vikings come into the game fairly healthy. Fazekas’ only concern is the availability of a few linemen who got nicked up at Southmoreland.

The Vikings rely on a strong running game led by senior Robbie Labuda. Senior Lane Golkosky, junior Jackson Hutter and senior Tyler Reese have all run well when called upon.

Labuda has rushed for 1,299 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Golkosky has gained 534 yards and scored seven times and Hutter has 476 yards and five touchdowns.

“It’s no secret what Mt. Pleasant likes to do. They are going to line up and run the ball,” East Allegheny coach Dom Pecora said. “They are doing the same thing they did 10 years when I was at Southmoreland.

“They have big, physical linemen and they have speed. The offense they run has another element; their quarterback is a threat throwing the ball. They are very consistent, and we’ll need to play our best to be in the game.”

East Allegheny is dealing with the injury bug. Pecora said the team that lined up three weeks ago will be missing some key components.

“We’re not the same team,” Pecora said. “We’re moving players around. We’re athletic and we’re physical. We’re not as big as Mt. Pleasant.”

Pecora said quarterback Mike Cahill, the only returning varsity player who scored a touchdown in 2021, will need to play his best game. Pecora said he’ll need to be a leader.

“With what we had coming back, I would have been thrilled to be 5-5,” Pecora said. “We’re probably a year ahead of schedule. Being 7-3 is remarkable and a credit to the work the players have put in. We’ve qualified for the playoffs six straight seasons. I’m disappointed we didn’t get a home game.”

Pecora doesn’t have a statistician but said Cahill and Amir Rollins are the leading rushers, Steve Yusko has the most receptions and Brennen Rutledge the most receiving yards. Another offensive weapon is kicker Matt Armenio, who has six field goals and 21 extra points.

“They have a lot skill,” Fazekas said. “It’s not going to be easy.”

Series history

Mt. Pleasant leads, 12-5

Year Winner Score

1973: East Allegheny 12-7

1974: Mt. Pleasant 20-15

1975: East Allegheny 7-6

1976: Mt. Pleasant 10-0

1977: East Allegheny 20-7

1978: Mt. Pleasant 14-13

1979: Mt. Pleasant 18-12

1980: East Allegheny 14-6

1981: Mt. Pleasant 28-0

1982: Mt. Pleasant 38-10

1983: Mt. Pleasant 21-0

2008: East Allegheny 21-3

2009: Mt. Pleasant 50-7

2010: Mt. Pleasant 22-20

2011: Mt. Pleasant 20-9

2012: Mt. Pleasant 58-21

2013: Mt. Pleasant 55-23

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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