Plum football writes championship chapter in program’s history books

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Sunday, October 25, 2020 | 11:01 AM


With its 35-7 victory over Knoch on Oct. 16, the Plum football team achieved something the program hadn’t experienced in nearly four decades.

The Mustangs captured their first conference championship since 1983, the year of their only WPIAL title.

“It feels amazing to represent Plum as a whole team,” senior quarterback Ryan Hubner said. “It’s not just one player. We have a whole team just fighting hard each week.”

While this year’s Greater Allegheny Conference crown is nice to wear, Hubner said, the Plum players are not resting on that honor alone.

“The conference title was just one chapter in our book,” said Hubner, who will help lead Plum into the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs Friday.

“The book is not finished. We want to add to it over the next couple of weeks.”

The Mustangs capped their regular season last Friday with a home game against conference foe Armstrong. They hoped to finish the regular season undefeated and untied for the first time since 1976 (10-0).

Going into last Friday’s games, Plum was one of three undefeated teams in Class 4A. Perennial power Thomas Jefferson and Aliquippa were the others.

“No matter who is in front of us, we have to give 100% and play with the confidence we did throughout the regular season,” Hubner said. “We have to go full throttle and not let off the gas. It’s going to be a challenge, but it will be fun for all of us.”

The last time Plum won in the WPIAL playoffs was in 2015 when it went in as the No. 13 seed and upended No. 4 Penn Hills, 17-6, in the first round.

Through six games, all in conference play, the Mustangs averaged 34.7 points and surrendered just 10.8 a contest, fourth in Class 4A behind Thomas Jefferson (7.0), Aliquippa (9.2) and Belle Vernon (9.3)

For the Plum offense, the attack through six games was balanced at 178.7 passing yards per game and 195.7 yards on the ground.

Hubner threw for 171 yards and two touchdowns against Knoch, giving him 13 touchdowns against just one interception and putting him over the 1,000-yard threshold for the season.

Sophomore Eryck Moore paced the rushing attack with 512 yards and eight scores through six games.

Defensively, Plum seniors Preston Sunday and Max Matolcsy led the way through six games with 51 and 49 tackles, respectively.

Sunday had a monster game against Hampton on Oct. 9 with 22 tackles, including four for a loss. He followed that up with nine tackles, including a sack, against Knoch.

“It is great for these guys to get their names etched in Plum history,” Plum coach Matt Morgan said. “It’s great for the community, and we’ve received a lot of congratulations from community members. We hope to give them more good things with wins in the playoffs.”

Morgan understands the history and legacy of Plum football and the desire to be a conference champion. He came close with his Mustangs teammates during his junior year in 1997 as they finished 6-1 in the Quad East, one game behind conference champion Fox Chapel (7-0).

Plum was 8-1 overall in the 1997 regular season and suffered a close 35-28 loss to Penn-Trafford in the first round.

The start of this season was clouded in uncertainty as WPIAL-wide covid concerns put the opportunity to play games in doubt.

“With us seniors and the other guys on the team, we thought that covid might ruin our season,” Hubner said. “We got together and said we’re going to wear masks, social distance as much as possible and follow the guidelines during the workouts (over the summer). We wanted everyone to feel comfortable.

“We got in as much work as possible to be ready for the season. Everyone put in 110% effort. We were all dripping sweat by the time we left the workouts. I think we could’ve played (in July) if we had to. No matter what was going to happen, we knew we were going to be prepared.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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