Plum carries experienced roster into 2nd season in Class 5A Big East Conference
Wednesday, August 9, 2023 | 9:47 PM
Plum had one of the youngest teams in Class 5A last season with only a handful of seniors, but showed plenty of promise.
They’ll have to replace two standouts in running back Eryck Moore and linebacker Kade Thomas, but there’s starting experience returning at every position.
“It was 19 points that separated us from being undefeated in conference play last year,” Plum coach Matt Morgan said. “Moving up from 4A to 5A, obviously you want to win them all, but that was progress for us at Plum, being able to go 5-5 against mostly 5A schools and compete with them.”
Moore set the school’s all-time rushing record (3,392 yards) and the single-game record (356 yards) in last year’s season finale against Indiana. He’s now at Slippery Rock.
Nicholas Odom will slide into the lead back spot after being the backup and a starting defensive end on defense. Odom showed his ability last year in the season opener against Kiski Area, rushing for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think he’ll do really well for us,” Morgan said. “I believe he’ll be able to carry that load that Eryck had in the past. We also have a couple other younger guys that will be there to step up as well.”
The Mustangs have an experienced quarterback in senior Sean Franzi. He was thrust into action as a sophomore and started all last season, passing for 687 yards and six touchdowns.
“I feel like he’s elevated his game every year we’ve asked him to. In his sophomore year, that was his first time playing quarterback, so people kind of forget that he was very young to that position,” Morgan said. “Last year he commanded the offense really well.
“He just needs to grow from some of the mistakes he made in those close games, but over the summer so far he’s been the best leader we have. We’re expecting big things from him this year, and I truly believe he’s ready to take that next step as a quarterback, a leader and guide us to wins this year.”
Franzi returns top receiver Darian Nelson, who had 30 receptions and 326 yards as a sophomore. Morgan believes Nelson can be a big playmaker much like Moore was.
“Darian is a special player,” Morgan said. “He’s been starting since he was a freshman. I expect him to become a dominant guy week in and week out.”
All five offensive lineman return and three others that have started games, giving Plum plenty of depth.
They are also four deep on the defensive line.
Nate Kondos, who is a returning starter on both lines, is expected to be the leader of the group.
The Mustangs lost their leading tackler each of the last two seasons in Thomas, who’s now at Edinboro. Thomas amassed more than 120 tackles both years.
Several linebackers return though, including senior Jack Tongel, who had 82 tackles a season ago.
“We’re hoping that Jack Tongel, who is a returning starter, can step into (Thomas’) role and be a leader on defense,” Morgan said.
Coach: Matt Morgan
2022 record: 5-5, 2-3 in Class 5A Big East Conference
All-time record: 343-429-27
Date, Opponent, Time
8.25 at Kiski Area, 7
9.1 Fox Chapel, 7
9.8 at Shaler, 7
9.15 at Norwin*, 7
9.22 Gateway*, 7
9.29 Franklin Regional*, 7
10.6 at South Fayette, 7
10.13 Penn-Trafford*, 7
10.20 at Hempfield*, 7
10.27 Indiana, 7
Passing: Sean Franzi
63-131, 687 yards, 6TDs
Rushing: Eryck Moore*
183-1,493 yards, 19 TDs
Receiving: Darian Nelson
30-326 yards, 1 TD
• When Eryck Moore set the school’s all-time and single-game rushing records last year at Indiana, the man who previously held both records, Dave Pucka, was in attendance. Pucka previously set the records in 1997 and was a teammate of Plum coach Matt Morgan.
• Plum has twin brothers on the team, Nicholas and Noah Odom. Nicholas has started at defensive end each of the last two years and will be the team’s running back this fall. Noah has started at cornerback the last two years.
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer
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