No. 3 Elizabeth Forward, No. 5 Mt. Pleasant to square off for Interstate Conference title
Thursday, October 15, 2020 | 1:46 PM
When Jason Fazekas took over the Mt. Pleasant football program, his goal was get the Vikings back to competing for conference titles.
Now in his fourth season as coach, Fazekas has the Vikings in position to win the WPIAL Class 3A Interstate Conference for the first time since 2013.
Fazekas put his squad through a spirited practice Monday as the fifth-ranked Vikings (4-1, 4-0) prepare to host third-ranked Elizabeth Forward (4-0, 3-0) in a WPIAL Class 3A Interstate Conference showdown for first place at 7 p.m. Friday.
The coach was pumped and was making sure his players were focused on the Warriors.
“He’s always like this, but maybe a little more fired up than usual,” senior Jonas King said.
Elizabeth Forward, which returned eight starters on both sides of the ball, was the preseason favorite to win the conference. The Warriors are led by Chase Whatton, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end/defensive end who committed to Division I Bowling Green on Wednesday.
“He’s a very explosive player,” Fazekas said of Whatton. “He’s going to make his plays, we just hope to limit him and put him in some conflicts.”
Whatton spearheads a defense that has allowed 20 points in four games. Coronavirus concerns forced Elizabeth Forward to cancel its season-opener against Yough, but the Warriors haven’t missed a beat since returning to the field.
Elizabeth Forward leads the series, 14-10-1, and has won the past three meetings with the Vikings, including 24-0 in 2019.
Mt. Pleasant has bounced back from a tough loss to Latrobe in Week 2 to win its past three games.
“That Latrobe team was pretty good,” Fazekas said. “We’re just trying to get better every week, and yes, we’re looking to play our best game of the year coming up here.
“Elizabeth Forward is a great team, and it has some very good players. It’s going to be a tough game. You can’t do better than the position we’re in.”
Both teams played tight contests against South Allegheny this season. The Vikings opened the season with a 21-14 win and the Warriors needed double overtime to pull out a 20-14 victory.
“South Allegheny is the best 2-3 team I’ve seen all year,” Elizabeth Forward coach Mike Collodi said. “The players are really excited about Friday.
“They worked their tails off and we’re playing really well. We preach ‘play fast and physical on defense.’ We’ve been pretty stingy.”
Collodi knew he had a talented team returning. He said Whatton has been a team leader; senior Nico Mrvos has contributed all over the field running and catching the ball and fielding kicks; junior DeVontay Brownfield is durable ball-carrier at tailback; and junior Nick Murphy has been a solid anchor in the trenches.
Brownfield leads the ground attack with 313 yards, and quarterback Evan Lewis has rushed for 253 yards.
The Warriors don’t throw much, but Lewis has been effective, completing 22 of 36 passes for 372 yards and seven touchdowns. Mrvos is the leading receiver with 11 catches for 169 yards, and Whatton has six catches.
Despite his weapons, Collodi knows Mt. Pleasant won’t be a pushover.
“You know you’ve been in a game when you play Mt Pleasant,” Collodi said. “They are physical and big. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
Both coaches expect that the team that wins the line of scrimmage will win the game.
The Vikings rely on running backs Aaron Alakson and Pete Billey and quarterback Asher O’Connor.
O’Connor has completed 21 of 35 passes for 400 yards and four touchdowns. He’s rushed for 126 yards and three scores.
Billey, who missed the Brownsville game with an injury, leads the rushing attack with 342 yards and five touchdowns. Alakson has rushed for 305 yards and two scores and has seven catches for 145 yards and a score. Donovin Bair also has seven catches for 175 yards and three scores.
“The last couple of years we’ve been working hard to be back to this point and the players have made big strides,” Fazekas said. “We just keep building and buying into the program. It’s a carryover of doing things right and caring what you do.
“I feel good about the players and the effort they are giving. The energy is good.”
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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