Mt. Pleasant working to rebound after 2-win season

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Sunday, August 18, 2019 | 9:22 PM


How do you erase the memory of a sad season? Turn around the record, of course.

Jake Johnson and the Mt. Pleasant Vikings are hoping to begin that process in their high school football opener Friday night against Southmoreland.

“We all know we don’t want to feel like we did last year,” said Johnson, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver-defensive back who led Mt. Pleasant with 43 receptions, 11 for touchdowns, last season.

The Vikings, who were 2-8, last reached the WPIAL playoffs in 2016. They’re attempting to reverse a two-year losing trend that has seen them combine for just six victories over that time.

Johnson, who dabbled in running a late-season devised wildcat formation, hopes to lead a productive, traditional attack this year.

“Last year, we didn’t really know our plays well enough,” he said. “Our line was hit with some injuries and, really, we just didn’t have enough going on there to be a competitive team. We can definitely improve on a lot of things just by getting our minds right.”

That has included a better focus for players on their practice habits.

“We’re practicing much harder,” Johnson said. “We got in the weight room, especially, because we needed to get stronger, and we’ve been training harder on the field, trying to get faster and better.”

He said he has seen more effort from everyone in preparing for what’s likely to come their way in the Class 3A Big East Conference. They are familiarizing themselves better with assignments.

It’s a team effort that has given hope to third-year coach Jason Fazekas, a former longtime Mt. Pleasant assistant and alum of the school.

So far, Fazekas is encouraged by the play of the offensive and defensive lines, where he’s hoping for an upgrade with the return of three starters, including two-way lineman Ian Fasano, a 5-11, 250-pound junior.

“Changing the attitude is the plan,” Fazekas said. “We have to make it right there.”

Johnson has been trying to use every opportunity to do his part, working on the things he can control, such as running better pass patterns and improving his blocking technique when he doesn’t have the football in his hands.

“I’ve looked at the weak points of my game, like my route-running, which wasn’t so good,” he said. “I tried to focus on that over the summer. We should benefit from having more experience and what looks like more weapons than we had last year, so I think we’ll be able to get the ball around to everyone more.”

It’s an idea that seemingly could benefit Mt. Pleasant’s quest to conquer some of those Big East teams that have had the Vikings’ number in recent years.

After their opener Friday night, the Vikings will travel to Hopewell on Aug. 30 before opening their Big East schedule Sept. 6 against visiting Yough.

“Depth is always an issue at our level,” said Fazekas, who has been forced to audition quarterbacks to succeed graduated 1,000-yard passer Lucas Pieszak.

Junior Asher O’Connor, last year’s junior varsity quarterback, gets the starting nod, with 6-2, 225-pound junior Pete Billey, who averaged 4.6 yards per carry, in the backfield.

“It’s important to keep our starting units and a couple reliable reserves healthy,” Fazekas said. “We’re trying to get kids to fit. We want to get the scheme to fit the kids.”

With the start of the regular season having nearly arrived, it won’t be long before Fazekas gets some answers.

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