Olsen, Armstrong run wild, hold off Plum

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Friday, October 22, 2021 | 10:43 PM


Armstrong is in the WPIAL playoffs for the fourth time in the school’s seven-season existence.

But holding on for the clincher wasn’t easy.

Up by 21 points with 3 minutes left in the third quarter, the River Hawks held off a furious Plum to beat the Mustangs, 35-28, in a Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference game at NexTier Athetic Complex.

Plum was at the Armstrong 44 before a turnover on downs after an incomplete pass with 43 seconds left.

One of the WPIAL’s top passers, Armstrong’s Cadin Olsen has added another dimension to his game: running.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound junior ran for 156 yards and three touchdowns for the River Hawks and passed for 126 yards.

All told, Armstrong (6-2, 4-2) ran for 411 yards, including 194 by sophomore Alex Patton.

“Our run game showed up tonight,” said River Hawks coach Frank Fabian. “I think everybody knows us as an aerial attack. We felt, looking at tape, that we could run tonight. We wanted to stay away from their skill people in the pass game.”

Olsen has 1,802 passing yards and 596 rushing yards on the season.

He also scored touchdowns on Armstrong’s first two possessions of the second half to take what appeared to be a commanding 35-14 lead.

The Mustangs (2-7, 2-4) went without a first down from the 5:22 mark of the first quarter until the 5:56 mark of the third.

But Plum, fighting to remain in playoff contention, saw sophomore quarterback Sean Franzi throw touchdowns passes of 43 and 17 yards to Darian Nelson to get within 35-28 with 5:18 left.

“This was an exciting one, that’s for sure,” said Plum coach Matt Morgan. “Hats off to them. They have a good football team. We made a couple critical errors early, and they capitalized on them with the misalignments in our running game.”

Franzi had 13 completions for 158 yards. Logan Brooks had eight receptions for 97 yards.

Fabian said one of Armstrong’s goals was to stop Plum running back Eryck Moore, who had 70 yards on eight carries, including a 66-yard touchdown run.

Despite early dominance, the River Hawks had just a 21-14 lead at the half.

In the first half, Armstrong had 13 first downs to Plum’s 2. The River Hawks had 298 offensive yards to Plum’s 75 – and 66 came on Moore’s touchdown run. Patton’s 7-yard run started the scoring, but the Mustangs answered with Moore’s long run on their second play from scrimmage. Armstrong then drove 74 yards in nine plays, with Olsen scoring from 3 yards. On the ensuing kickoff, however, an 85-yard return by Brooks and Moore’s 2-point conversion tied the score 14-14.

With 35 seconds left in the half, junior Jaxson Crissman took a pitchout and sped 19 yards along the left sideline to put the River Hawks back in front, 21-14.

Isaiah Brown caught five passes for 86 yards for the River Hawks. He has 43 receptions this season.

A River Hawks win next week at Indiana could lead to a home playoff game.

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