Labuda, Reese return to lineup, fuel Mt. Pleasant victory over Southmoreland

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Friday, September 24, 2021 | 10:31 PM


Teams that won’t give one another the pleasure of using their real names, “Alverton” met “Norvelt” on Friday night in a throwback game that first put down roots in 1964.

The advantage went to Norvelt … ahem … Mt. Pleasant, in the latest chapter of the longtime rivalry. Big-time advantage.

The Vikings got the running game churning as they welcomed back a pair of key players from injury and romped past No. 4-ranked Southmoreland, 34-7, in a Class 3A Interstate Conference game at Vikings Stadium.

Juniors Robbie Labuda and Tyler Reese returned and powered the Vikings (3-2, 1-0), who made it back-to-back wins in the series and ended the Scotties’ two-game winning streak.

Labuda ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a scoring pass, and Reese threw for 115 yards and a touchdown and returned an interception 73 yards for a score.

“This team did everything we asked of them all week, and that includes those guys who came back,” Mt. Pleasant coach Jason Fazekas said. “We came out and played with energy. It’s no secret we’re going to run the ball. That was one of the best games we’ve played.”

Senior Aaron Alakson added 80 yards rushing and a touchdown in the win.

Southmoreland (3-2, 1-1) wore camouflaged jerseys. The Scotties didn’t see this one coming.

“We got our butts kicked,” Southmoreland coach Dave Keefer said. “We played poorly and had a lot of self-inflicted wounds. They physically beat us up. Hats off to Mt. Pleasant.”

Mt. Pleasant, which took losses to Class 4A Greensburg Salem and 5A Latrobe in the last two weeks, went right to Labuda and Reese, who had hamstring issues last week. They bought in from the start, and Southmoreland had no answer for either of them.

The Vikings piled up 440 yards, 340 on the ground. Southmoreland had 191 total yards, and quarterback Anthony Govern faced pressure for much of the night.

“We’re a running team, so that is what we do,” Reese said. “We have a great backfield. Robbie runs downhill. We needed this win. Everyone doubted us.”

The Scotties looked to be gaining traction in the series with Mt. Pleasant but could not stop the run from the start in this meeting.

Mt. Pleasant won 13-10 last year to snap a two-game losing streak in the series, which it is used to dominating. The Vikings have won 39 of 47 meetings.

Southmoreland had won two of the last three.

After the teams exchanged fumbles early, the Vikings capitalized on a fumble recovery by Jake Levendusky. Five straight runs — all double-digit gains by Labuda, Reese and Alakson — set up a short touchdown run by Labuda. Freshman kicker Jarrett Garn’s extra point made it 7-0.

With the run established, the Vikings continued to gash the Scotties. Alakson ran left and followed blockers into the end zone for a 17-yard score and a 14-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.

The Scotties answered with a seven-play drive capped by an 8-yard scoring run by quarterback Govern to cut the margin to 14-7.

Mt. Pleasant drove to the Scotties’ 20 late in the first half but turned it over on downs.

Labuda ran for 130 yards in the first half.

The teams again exchanged turnovers to start the second half, both losing fumbles. Southmoreland forced a pass interference penalty and drove to the Vikings’ 27, but Reese stepped in front of a deep ball by Govern on third-and-16 and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown to extend the advantage to 21-7 late in the third.

“The coaches moved me to safety (from cornerback) this week and said they’d use me on third and long situations,” Reese said. “I read (Govern’s) eyes, and I jumped the route. I had some great blockers in front of me.”

After forcing a pooch punt, the Scotties had to defend against the pass on the next series. Reese hit Brant Garn over the top for a 66-yard gain before he zipped a strike to Labuda for a 17-yard score. The juggling catch drew some oohs and aahs, but the extra point was blocked and the Vikings held a 27-7 lead.

The score capped a 93-yard drive.

Labuda added a 20-yard run to push it to 34-7 with 6:45 to play.

“It was just a bad game, man,” Keefer said. “We have to get better as a team and a staff.”

Govern was 8 of 21 and passed for 99 yards and ran for 83.

J.J. Bloom had four catches for 61 yards.

“It’s always fun to play (Southmoreland),” Fazekas said. “Their coaches are a good group of guys. We respect each other.”

Mt. Pleasant honored its 2021 WPIAL and PIAA champion softball team at halftime. Players received their championships rings.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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