Moon grinds to victory against South Fayette

Friday, September 29, 2023 | 11:45 PM

It’s not too often that Moon’s wing-T offense will be flashy, and it wasn’t in Friday’s 24-3 win over South Fayette to allow the Tigers (3-3, 1-0 5A-1) to win their third straight and open conference play in the Allegheny Six.

But what the offense lacked in flash, on a night where the offense did “enough,” according to coach Ryan Linn, the defense made up for in splash.

The Tigers rode a five-sack performance to a win over South Fayette (2-4, 0-2), using three strip sacks and four turnovers to their advantage, the last of which came on special teams. Moon allowed 50 yards of offense and ran 58 plays on offense to the Lions’ 34, only 12 of which came in the second half. South Fayette gained only 7 yards in the third and fourth quarters combined.

“We played our most complete defensive game of the year,” Linn said. “The last few weeks our special teams have been key, and we did enough offensively.”

The four-forced-turnover effort was the first, Linn believes, since he took over as coach in 2017. Moon held Nate Deanes, a tailback who came in with 443 yards in the first five games of the season for South Fayette, to fewer than 20 yards rushing on close to 10 carries. It held Nico Lamonde, who came in with 786 yards and five scores, to 48 yards through the air on 7-of-13 passing.

It was an impressive night for the Moon front seven.

“You make those plays, you give yourselves a great chance,” Linn said. “We’ve changed our defense this past year, and we felt we have more kids that are athletic and can run a bit. Our guys up front are quicker than they were big. Those guys were creating pressure all night.”

South Fayette started the scoring in the game as Tyler Nicholson hit a 30-yard field goal with 6 minutes, 56 seconds to play in the first quarter. That came after South Fayette recovered a fumble by Josh Bladel.

“We started with good energy. We got the fumble and only got three, which was tough. We have to do better there,” South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. “Defensively, I thought we grinded some things out. They got what they wanted on some plays, but kudos to them on a good game plan. They’re getting better.”

But it was all Moon from there.

A long scoring drive in the second ended with a Bladel 12-yard touchdown run. He finished the night with 10 carries for 43 yards and the score that came with 7:45 to play in the first half.

Just 29 seconds later, the first of the aforementioned three strip sacks occurred as Lamonde lost the ball. It was picked up by Jared Moyer and taken 32 yards to paydirt. That brought the score to 14-3, where it stayed until the third quarter.

With 6:16 to play in the third, Nazir Brookins scored on a 2-yard run, which came after the muffed punt turnover by the Lions. Brookins finished with 84 yards on 22 carries.

In the fourth, Hayden Boland connected on a 24-yard field goal to finish the scoring with 8:04 left.

Nine players carried the pigskin for the Tigers, to the tune of a 199-yard offensive night. Matthew Cross completed one of three attempts but didn’t have a single yard passing in the win.

“That’s kind of our MO. We’re going to muddy it up a little bit and just be here for four quarters,” Linn said. “We want to keep dudes fresh, and the more guys we run out there, we can keep our big guns fresh and then they can pop one off.”

South Fayette returns to nonconference play at 2-4, having lost its fourth straight game for the first time since 2021. The Lions host Plum next week.

Next up for the Tigers is first-place Peters Township.

“Enjoy it tonight, tomorrow we’ll come back to work,” Linn said. “We struggled last year. There was a lot of ‘stay positive’ last year. Now we can nit-pick a bit, learn from it and grow. We’ll see what happens.”

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