Mt. Pleasant looking to take next step after playoff win

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | 2:41 PM

Mt. Pleasant achieved a lot of its goals in the 2021 football season.

Make the playoffs. Check. Host a playoff game. Check. Win that home playoff game. Check.

But that success leads coach Jason Fazekas to believe a new to-do list could be in order.

“We always talk about trying to make it into the playoffs and be competitive at the end of the season, so to actually get in the playoffs, win a game and make it to the quarterfinals, yeah, I’d say we’re pretty happy with it,” he said.

“At the same time, we feel like we could’ve had a couple more of those and maybe had some of those other games back.”

The Vikings finished the year 6-5 and 3-2 in Class 3A’s Interstate Conference.

Mt. Pleasant beat Burrell, 41-7, in the Class 3A first round before losing to Avonworth, 49-7, in the quarterfinals.

But, despite the lopsided loss to end the season, getting a playoff win was big for the program in Fazekas’ eyes.

“I thought it was really important,” he said. “When we look back, a couple of years ago, we had a really bad season and only won two games. The next year, we were the No. 8 team in the playoffs. The next year, the No. 7 team, and this year, the No. 6 team. So we feel like, as a program, we’re making strides and getting back there.”

That said, there were those pesky losses he’d like to “have back.”

While four of the Vikings’ five losses were fairly one-sided, a Week 9 setback to South Allegheny, 21-7, was a close one.

“Maybe it’s some of the decisions you make and how you execute it in the game,” he said of the losses. “Maybe some things that I could’ve done better. It all starts with me. But there’s just things you wish you could’ve done better.”

Offensively, the Vikings were led by a ground-and-pound rushing attack thanks in large part to a group of maulers up front.

“I thought our offensive line really were hard workers,” Fazekas said. “I thought they really bought in and were very coachable.”

Junior Robbie Labuda was the primary beneficiary of the line’s play, rushing for 1,004 and 13 touchdowns this season.

“Looking forward to having him back,” Fazekas said of Labuda. “I’m really happy with how he played. He’s an old-school, downhill runner. He doesn’t really say a lot. I’m really happy with the season he had.”

Next year, Mt. Pleasant also returns both of its quarterbacks from this fall in junior Tyler Reese and an intriguing freshman Cole Chatfield, who started in the postseason.

But the team will lose 14 seniors, including Aaron Alakson, who scored 12 touchdowns between receiver and tailback.

“They’ve meant a lot to me,” Fazekas said of his departing players. “I feel like I have a pretty strong connection to those kids. What stood out to me is how they committed this past year.

“A lot of them weren’t starters as juniors, so to come back, lift and commit to the whole program, I thought their effort was outstanding.”

Fazekas can sense that the program is trending in the right direction. But, to compete in a top-heavy Class 3A, he knows the Vikings will have to amp it up even more heading into 2022.

“To make it into the quarterfinals and then start winning those games, it’s very clear that you have to be one of the top teams,” he said. “How we prepare, what we do in the offseason, I think is going to be the point of focus for us.”


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