After signature win, Plum faces stern test from Highlands

Thursday, October 1, 2020 | 3:48 PM

Since its last playoff appearance in 2015, Plum has been waiting to make a statement on the football field.

That opportunity came last Friday night, and the Mustangs stated their case with a 49-21 victory over then-No. 2 Mars, serving notice to their foes the Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference. Now, the newly ranked No. 4 Mustangs are ready to continue to prove themselves.

“We wanted to gain respect coming into that game,” senior quarterback Ryan Hubner said. “We just came in, did our thing, kept it sound, stuck to our techniques and came out on top.”

Plum (3-0, 3-0) knows its job isn’t done, though. Throughout the week, coach Matt Morgan has preached focus because Highlands (1-2, 1-2) had Mars on the ropes a few weeks ago.

Morgan also knows a thing or two about letdowns.

In 2015, the Mustangs started the season 4-0 and lost to a tough Kiski Area team 23-14 in Week 5.

“We’re not letting that happen this year,” Morgan said. “We remind the kids every day about that and how good of a team Highlands really is and they need a win to stay alive.”

Highlands is coming off tough losses to Mars and Hampton. Last week, the Golden Rams were tripped up when Hampton quarterback Matt DeMatteo hit Benny Haselrig with a 22-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

“There’s been a little bit of disappointment the past few weeks,” Highlands coach Dom Girardi said. “We were in a few games that we certainly could’ve won. But in terms of confidence, this is an interesting group of kids we have. Not too many things intimidate them. We’ve played some big teams before, and they’ll come ready. They’ll be confident in themselves.”

While Mars was a handful for the Golden Rams, the Mustangs will be an even bigger problem. From their two quarterbacks — Hubner and Jake Miller — to their two running backs — Billy Guzzi and Eryck Moore — and a group of receivers that includes Reed Martin, Max Matolcsy and Logan Brooks, the options are endless.

“It’s a change of pace for us,” Girardi said. “Plum is more similar to us in terms of spread, so it’s something that we see throughout the year just practicing against ourselves, but it’s definitely a challenge because we’re switching up gears in terms of what we’re defending.”

Highlands isn’t short on talent either.

Sophomore quarterback Chandler Thimons has thrown for 526 yards and seven touchdowns, and junior running back Brock White has run for 244 yards and two scores. Thimons also has four receivers with more than 60 receiving yards. Junior Elijah Coleman leads the way with 195 yards and two touchdowns.

“They have a lot of big, physical guys up front. They, obviously, have the big back in Brock White. The quarterback is a good passer, playmaker, and they have athletes everywhere,” Morgan said. “It’s going to be a challenge all the way for us.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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