Elizabeth Forward cruises to victory over Mt. Pleasant

Friday, October 7, 2022 | 10:32 PM

A quick-strike offense and a shutdown defense helped lead Elizabeth Forward to a 42-14 win over visiting Mt. Pleasant in Class 3A’s Interstate Conference on Friday night at Warriors Stadium.

EF’s Zach Boyd continued to show he’s one of the most dominant players in the WPIAL, and the Warriors defense had their way with Vikings 1,000-yard rusher Robbie Labuda.

Boyd finished with three catches for 116 yards and two receiving touchdowns and returned a punt 51 yards for another score. He also returned a punt for 46 yards to give him 213 all-purpose yards.

“Zach’s a special player. He continues to show that. He can turn anything into a touchdown,” EF coach Mike Collodi said. “It’s tough for teams to not kick to him because you also have Charlie Nigut back there, so you kind of had to pick your poison.”

Nigut had an 80-yard kick return called back by a penalty.

Defensively, the Warriors front seven, including Chris Climes, Charlie Meehleib, Jordan Wilmore and Johnny DiNapoli, were relentless in their pursuit of Labuda.

“We knew coming in that we wanted to stop the one thing they did best,” Collodi said. “They have a lot of good players over there, but Labuda has 1,000 yards in six games for a reason. He likes to go between the tackles, and we know that’s our strength.”

The Vikings standout finished with 55 yards rushing on 16 carries. Of those, 32 yards came on two carries in the second half.

He finished the game with four catches for 66 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown from Cole Chatfield to answer Boyd’s 20-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

The Warriors put up a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter as Zion White found Isaiah Turner in the end zone for a 3-yard scoring strike on a fourth-down play.

After the teams exchanged three-and-outs, Nigut blasted a 58-yard punt to pin the Vikings at their own 1.

“I think that was the turning point,” Collodi said. “We forced them to punt from back there. They had a bad punt, and we capitalized.”

The Warriors needed only one play, a 27-yard touchdown strike from White to Keilly Rush to make it 21-7 at the half.

White was impressive after missing last week’s win over Southmoreland. The senior finished 8 of 15 for 198 yards and four touchdowns.

The Warriors’ first-half scoring drives were one play, two plays and one play.

“You’d think we’d like to see some more sustained drives, but the object of the game is to score more points than the other team. As long as we’re scoring on those quick drives, we’ll take it,” Collodi said.

The Warriors had a chance to score on the opening drive of the second half, but the Vikings (4-3, 1-1) got an interception from Lucas Nicotera in the end zone for a touchback.

The Warriors (7-0, 2-0) finally broke through on another quick drive, this one two plays and the first play of the fourth quarter as Boyd took a short screen pass 68 yards for another touchdown.

Just 1 minute, 24 seconds later, he added his punt return to put his team up 35-14.

The Vikings played the second half without starting quarterback Cole Chatfield, who was being tended to by a trainer on the sidelines.

Tyler Reese stepped in and led his team on a nine-play, 66-yard scoring drive capped off by his 1-yard touchdown run. The Warriors helped the Vikings out on the drive with a pair of 15-yard facemask penalties.

The home team responded after an onside kick attempt as Wilmore picked up his team’s final score of the night on a 2-yard run with just less than four minutes remaining.

“We really challenged our guys this week when it came to stopping Labuda. Mt. Pleasant is good up front, so our guys knew they had to come out and be physical,” Collodi said. “We wanted to make a statement. We knew we were in a big game, a game of the week, and I think we made the statement and had the performance we wanted to.”

The Warriors are home with South Allegheny next week, whereas the Vikings travel to Belle Vernon.

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