Mt. Pleasant rolls past South Allegheny
Friday, October 21, 2022 | 11:21 PM
The Vikings, who play at Southmoreland in the regular-season finale next Friday, qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, shaking off a tough stretch that saw them lose three of the previous four games before rebounding in a big way.
Jackson Hutter topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the second week in a row, his only two 100-yard performances as a varsity player, to lead Mt. Pleasant.
Hutter finished with a career-high 136 yards on six carries for Mt. Pleasant (5-4, 2-2 Class 3A Interstate Conference). He gained 107 yards last week in a 55-7 loss to No. 3 Belle Vernon.
“I felt good tonight,” Hutter said. “We all played great on both sides of the ball.”
Hutter also is a linebacker for Mt. Pleasant.
“We’re going to be 100 percent focused on what we’re doing next week,” Mt. Pleasant coach Jason Fazekas said. “We’re glad we’re in the playoffs, but the best thing we can do is take care of ourselves this week, have a great game (at Southmoreland) and let it go from there.”
Robbie Labuda, who was held without a rushing yard against Belle Vernon after entering the game as the leading ground-gainer in Westmoreland County, scored twice and finished with 75 yards rushing for Mt. Pleasant.
Quarterback Cole Chatfield threw a pair of touchdown passes for the Vikings, who led 20-0 at halftime.
The Gladiators were playing without regular starting quarterback Eric Wehrer in interim coach Desmond Ball’s second game since taking over the program upon the reisgnation of former coach Darwin Manges.
Ball, in his first season as South Allegheny’s defensive coordinator, said Wehrer, a senior, was held out because of multiple injuries in favor of sophomore Ryan Cortes, who was making his second career start.
“I felt like he did great tonight,” Ball said. “He made a lot of improvement from the last time he started (a 55-0 loss to Belle Vernon on Sept. 30). Belle Vernon was a tough game for him to go into, but tonight, he held his composure.”
Chatfield, also a sophomore, finished 5 for 12 for 68 yards, and Cortes wound up 3 of 6 for 77 yards.
Despite another lopsided outcome — South Allegheny is last in the conference in scoring offense (8.2 ppg) — Ball was unfazed.
“Every day, I preach to them to go 100 percent. Every day,” he said. “No matter the outcome, no matter the odds, never give up. That’s the gameplan, and I felt we did that.”
Ball, in his seventh season as an assistant in the WPIAL and City League and the first at South Allegheny as its defensive coordinator, said he’s hoping to stick with the program next year.
“I’d love to come back in any capacity because I love to coach the game of football, and I love being around the kids,” Ball said.
“Honestly, wherever they need me, I’m here,” he said. “If they want me to step up, I’m here. If they want me on the staff, I’m here.”
Mt. Pleasant scored on its first three possessions and never was threatened.
Hutter’s 22-yard touchdown run capped a 4-play, 66-yard drive on the Vikings’ first possession. Hutter carried twice for 54 yards on the drive as Mt. Pleasant took a 7-0 lead.
Chatfield fired a 38-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Reese on Mt. Pleasant’s second possession to give the Vikings a 14-0 advantage.
On the third possession, Mt. Pleasant stretched its lead to 20-0 as Labuda rushed six yards for a touchdown with 8:47 to go before halftime.
Labuda’s 12-yard run for a touchdown increased Mt. Pleasant’s lead to 27-0, followed by a 1-yard scoring run by Sean Cain for a 34-0 advantage, both coming in the third quarter.
Chatfield flipped a 25-yard touchdown pass to Lane Golkosky in the fourth quarter to trigger a running clock.
The victory comes at a critical time for Mt. Pleasant, which had been badly beaten the past two weeks, losing by a combined 97-21 to top-ranked Elizabeth Forward and Belle Vernon.
“I’m always happy when we get a win,” Fazekas said. “It was nice after the last couple weeks to get back on track a little bit. No doubt, it was a tough stretch.”
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