Mt. Pleasant motivated to make history in playoff clash with Avonworth

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021 | 4:37 PM


Motivation can come in many forms at WPIAL football playoff time.

There’s the underdog approach — us against the world. Or, the next-man-up mentality.

Small-town pride also can carry a lot of weight.

But some teams simply are fueled by a want to carve their name into program history. To be remembered.

Mt. Pleasant (6-4) has not been to the WPIAL semifinals since 1996, so the Vikings have been chasing a goal for 25 years.

They will get another chance to advance to the Class 3A final four Friday night when they visit No. 3-seeded Avonworth (8-2) at 7 p.m. in a quarterfinal game at Lenzer Field in Ohio Township.

The winner gets either North Catholic (10-0) or Keystone Oaks (6-5) the following Friday in the semis.

The Vikings believe if they take care of business, the rest will be, well, history.

“Our motivation is beating a team on Friday,” Mt. Pleasant coach Jason Fazekas said. “Our motivation was, we checked off a goal by winning a playoff game. Our motivation is, we’re the only team practicing on campus right now for a fall sport.

“It’s a nice time. There’s a lot at stake. We would love to be able to advance another week.”

Mt. Pleasant rolled to its first playoff win since 2014 with a 41-7 victory over Burrell last week. Senior Aaron Alakson scored three touchdowns, two via rush and another on a 65-yard pass. He ran for 113 yards on 12 carries.

“That was a big win,” Fazekas said. “I’ll take a playoff win any time.”

Junior Robbie Labuda added 170 yards on 15 rushes, scored a touchdown and intercepted a pass for the Vikings, who scored on their first four possessions.

“We played hard and fast,” Alakson said. “We didn’t make many mistakes. Our heads were on a level plane.”

“We want to keep playing as long as we can.(Previous Mt. Pleasant teams) made the playoffs many years in a row before our drought two years ago. We want to keep winning. It’s something to work for.”

Avonworth, which won a WPIAL title in 2019 but missed the playoffs last year, had a first-round bye. The Antelopes finished second in the Northwestern Six Conference behind top-seeded and heavily favored Central Valley.

They average 31.1 points and allow just 9.7.

“They’re just overall a very good football team,” Fazekas said. “They’re sound from every position. You don’t see any gaps or any kind of weaknesses there. And they’re well coached on top of that.”

Quarterback Nathan Harper has thrown for 1,122 yards and 11 touchdowns, while running back Ian Syam has 1,005 yards rushing and 13 TDs.

Top receiving targets are Peyton Faulkner (6-foot-4, 220) and Tyler Schleis, while sophomore linebacker Brandon Biagiarelli leads the defense.

“They play fast, and they’re good at what they do,” Alakson said. “We have to play our game.”

Mt. Pleasant played without junior quarterback Tyler Reese, who sat out with a minor injury. Freshman Cole Chatfield managed the game well in his absence.

Reese is expected to be ready this week.

“We’re planning on him going,” Fazekas said. “If for some reason, he can’t go, we’ll go with (Chatfield).

“We have a plan for both scenarios.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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