Mt. Pleasant holds off dogged challenge by Yough

Saturday, October 3, 2020 | 12:06 AM

Mt. Pleasant kept trying to put away the outcome. Yough wouldn’t allow it to happen.

Until time ran out on the Cougars.

Pete Billey rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns, and Asher O’Connor threw two scoring passes to Donavin Bair and scored on an 8-yard run late in the fourth quarter as Mt. Pleasant held off visiting Yough, 43-32, on Friday night in a WPIAL Class 3A Interstate Conference game.

It was the ninth consecutive win in the series for Mt. Pleasant (3-1, 3-0).

“Give credit to Yough,” Mt. Pleasant coach Jason Fazekas said. “We’re not surprised — I’m surprised there were so many (points) — because we knew they were athletic, and you’ve got to give them credit for that.”

O’Connor tucked the ball away and sneaked through the Yough defense with 3 minutes remaining, then added a two-point conversion run when he picked up the ball on a botched extra-point hold to push Mt. Pleasant’s lead to 43-26.

Earlier in the second half, Yough (1-3, 0-3), despite playing without several key injured players, kept it close, creeping within 21-20 on CJ Waldier’s 66-yard touchdown pass from Gamal Marballie with 4:10 left in the third quarter.

“I’m proud of the kids. We’re down 4 or 5 starters … they played their hearts out tonight,” first-year Yough coach Chris Chunko said.

After Yough got within a point, Mt. Pleasant scored twice on Billey’s 2-yard run and Bair’s 34-yard reception from O’Connor to build another cushion and hold off the Cougars.

“I’m always happy about a win, and I’m going to take them when we can get them,” Fazekas said. “We’re 3-0 in the conference, but I know we’ve got to make ourselves better. We’ve got to learn to play a complete game. We turned the ball over a couple of times tonight, and they got some points off that.”

It was a see-saw affair until Mt. Pleasant opened up a 21-12 halftime lead, scoring twice on Billey touchdown runs in the second quarter to erase a five-point deficit.

Billey’s 9-yard burst to the end zone with 6:34 left in the second quarter gave Mt. Pleasant a 14-12 lead.

He added a 3-yarder in the final minute to provide the Vikings with their 9-point halftime advantage, capping a drive that was kept alive on O’Connor’s 14-yard pass to Bair on fourth down.

It looked as though Mt. Pleasant would begin to pull away before Yough came back.

The Cougars again capitalized on a fumble recovery — Julian Varrenti gaining possession — as Marballie found Waldier on a 66-yard touchdown pass with 4:10 left in the third quarter. The same duo hooked up on a 2-point conversion pass to pull Yough within 21-20.

Mt. Pleasant then scored a pair of touchdowns within a 15-second span, Billey’s 2-yard run and the 34-yard pass from O’Connor to Bair, opening up a 35-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t know how good we are,” Fazekas said, “but we were good enough to win a game tonight. So, you go on from there.”

Yough jumped to a 6-0 lead with 8:08 remaining in the first quarter as freshman wide receiver Terek Crosby, making his first start at running back, capped a 60-yard drive with a 40-yard touchdown run following a fumble recovery by the Cougars’ Austin Caudill.

Crosby, a 6-foot-2, 160-pound first-year player, was inserted into the backfield to replace Marballie as part of a shakeup in the Cougars’ lineup following a season-ending knee injury to junior quarterback Tristan Waldier last week.

“Just moving kids to different positions every week,” Chunko said. “Listen, they came out and they played their hearts out tonight. They didn’t stop. They played to the final end, and it makes me very happy.

“We have three more games that we can win, so get back to the drawing board.”

The 6-3, 196-pound Tristan Waldier, among the leading passers early on in the WPIAL, tore his ACL in a 41-9 loss to South Allegheny after missing most of last season with a knee injury.

Mt. Pleasant answered on the ensuing drive, as O’Connor completed a 43-yard touchdown pass to Bair, putting the Vikings up, 7-6, with 6:33 left in the first quarter.

A 7-minute drive by Yough ended with a 1-yard keeper for a touchdown by Marballie on the first play of the second quarter, helping the Cougars regain a 12-7 lead.

Billey’s 9-yard touchdown run pushed Mt. Pleasant into the lead for good, 14-12, and he made it 21-12 at the half on a 9-yard scoring run with just 25 seconds left before intermission.

Tristan Waldier tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in Week Zero last season against Serra Catholic.

He suffered his latest injury in the first quarter a week ago, but returned to the lineup before going down again in the second half and being helped off the field.

It marks the second consecutive season Marballie was moved to quarterback to replace Waldier.

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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