No-nonsense running back gaining ground for Mt. Pleasant

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 | 9:10 AM

Robbie Labuda isn’t one for frills.

The junior tailback at Mt. Pleasant won’t wow anyone with his gameday gear and accoutrements. He just lets his play do the talking.

“I don’t wear any of those arm sleeves or the leg sleeves or anything, really,” Labuda said. “Just the gloves to help me catch better. I don’t really care how I look. I just show everyone by how I run the ball.”

And his opponents have been forced to take notice. Despite missing a game because of an injury, Labuda has rushed for 463 yards, caught seven passes for 88 yards and scored 10 touchdowns to help the Vikings to a 3-2 record.

“Robbie’s a quiet kid, and he doesn’t say much. But I really appreciate how he gets at it,” Vikings coach Jason Fazekas said. “He’s not into how he looks or what he says. The kid just plays hard. You never have to question his effort.

“I tell Robbie he’s a little bit goofy. And I mean that in a good way. I love how he gets after it, with his approach.”

That approach is a throwback style.

“He’s an old-school, downhill runner,” Fazekas said. “He’s a hard hitter. And, on top of that, he’s very fast. He adds a big dimension to our offense.”

Like his getup, Labuda has a simple way of looking at toting the football.

“Whenever your line blocks well, you can just find gaps whenever you’re running straight,” he said. “So I run downhill and find a way.”

That plays perfectly into what Fazekas wants to do on offense. In addition to Labuda, Aaron Alakson has run for 322 yards and four touchdowns, and quarterback Tyler Reese has 234 yards and four more scores on the ground.

“I love having them back there,” Labuda said of Alakson and Reese. “They’re great people, and having them out on the field is great. You have one guy who can touch the ball and get 20 yards, another who can run for a big gain and set us up in different positions. It’s fun to be out there and be alongside those guys.”

The trio gives the Vikings a multidimensional attack, even if they don’t go to the air much.

“Whatever your scheme is, you’ve got to believe in it,” Fazekas added. “We feel like what we do here is good for the team, good for the program. It’s not a secret that we’re going to run the football, and when we get that running game going, it’s usually a good thing.”

In Week 4, Mt. Pleasant pounded Class 3A Interstate Conference rival Southmoreland, 34-7, in the Vikings’ conference opener. Labuda was the focal point, rushing for 195 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a pass for another score.

Not too shabby, considering he missed the previous week — a 35-0 loss at Latrobe — with a hamstring issue.

“Coming back off of being a little injured, it was impressive in a way,” Labuda said. “But it’s just how I expect myself to play every week. I expect myself to run hard and score and get a bunch of yards every week. I guess it was just a normal week.”

“That was one of the best games I’ve ever been around in my coaching career,” Fazekas added. “It was a huge win for us and good for us to get back on track.”

Labuda is all about sports. In addition to running, catching and tackling, he kicks field goals and extra points. Once football season ends, Labuda uses that leg to play winter and spring soccer for a Pittsburgh Riverhounds cup team. He also runs for the track team.

Before he kicks it full time, Labuda wants to make up for a disappointing end to 2020, in which Mt. Pleasant lost tight games to Elizabeth Forward and South Park to close out the regular season.

Then the Vikings fell to North Catholic, 35-14, in their first playoff game.

“Last year, the ending sucked,” Labuda said. “But it was a big learning experience for everyone who was going to step up and play (this) year. We went out and played hard in those games. This year we’re coming back and can see that we can make it there. We’ve just got to execute better and win those games.”


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