Mt. Pleasant sticks with hot hand, rolls past Greensburg Salem

Friday, September 29, 2023 | 10:52 PM

Through its nonconference slate, Mt. Pleasant made a living by bullying its opponents on the ground with its tool shed of running backs, and that was no different for the fourth-ranked team in Class 3A on Friday as it rolled to a 38-7 victory over Greensburg Salem.

The dominant win not only marked the Vikings’ fifth straight win but also signified an impressive start to Interstate Conference play.

“Right now, we are very hot,” running back Dante Giallonardo said. “We really needed to start off hot. We only count section games, and we are 1-0.”

Giallonardo was the workhorse for the Vikings (5-1, 1-0), carrying the ball 12 times while rushing for 151 yards. His name was called on the first play of the game to set the tone, and he did that exactly as he flew up midfield for a 31-yard gain.

On just the second play from scrimmage, Vikings’ quarterback Cole Chatfield held onto the ball on a designed keeper and scampered for an 18-yard score.

Greensburg Salem’s offense took the field just after 46 seconds came off the clock. The Golden Lions (1-5, 0-1 Interstate) were relying once again on freshman quarterback Brody Chismar, who took over in the first quarter of last week’s loss to East Allegheny.

What started as a promising drive came to an end as Chismar lofted up a floater into the end zone and it was intercepted by the Vikings. The first possession for Chismar was indicative of the night it would be for the youngster, who went on to throw three interceptions.

“I thought we did some good things in the first half, but we couldn’t score and punch it in,” Greensburg Salem coach Ty George said.

“Going against a freshman (quarterback), we wanted to make him uncomfortable, and we did,” Giallonardo said. “We got a lot of pressure on him and the front four did well.”

After setting up the opening score, Giallonardo continued his exceptional night by finding the end zone on two short-yardage situations with help from his offensive line blocking up front.

“Our line was really opening up holes, and all I had to do was hit it,” Giallonardo said. “We are a hard-nose football team and we wanted to be aggressive, and we were.”

Mt. Pleasant’s rotation of running backs saw seven players get a touch on the ball with Gaillonardo leading the way after Jackson and Brody Hutter paced the offense last week against Freeport.

“We talk about it. If it’s Jackson this week, maybe its Dante or someone else next week,” coach Jason Fazekas said. “We found something that worked, so we kept sticking with it and (Dante) was making big plays off of it.”

With two touchdowns on the ground, Gaillonardo also added a touchdown reception out of the backfield as Chatfield found him in the flat for a 9-yard catch and run.

As Mt. Pleasant opened up a 17-point lead, Greensburg Salem found itself on its heels and searching for a substantial drive from Chismar.

Greensburg Salem converted on the much-needed first down as Chismar tossed a nifty shovel pass to Brady Smith to push within striking distance. After a long, nine-minute drive in the second quarter, Smith punched it in from a yard out to snap its five-quarter scoreless slide.

Chismar completed his first career start by completing 20-of-35 passes for 203 yards through the air.

“We’re proud of him,” George said. “He did a lot of good things for us and has a lot of potential for the future.”

The Golden Lions looks to end their three-game losing streak as they travel to formidable Belle Vernon next Friday. Mt. Pleasant continues conference play at home against Elizabeth Forward.

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