Plum gains momentum with Week Zero win over Highlands
Friday, August 23, 2019 | 10:59 PM
Plum went into its Week Zero matchup at Highlands hoping to take some positive momentum into Class 5A Foothills Conference play and the Mustangs got it in all three phases of the game.
The Mustangs produced a 70-yard punt return from Reed Martin, sprinkled in some big yardage plays on offense and forced four turnovers on defense en route to a 28-6 victory over the Golden Rams on Friday night.
“We have to grow from this and keep moving forward,” Plum coach Matt Morgan said. “Technically, we’re still a very young team. This team was all sophomores last year for the most part, so they’re still pretty young. The maturity level has to kick in a little bit. We were getting caught up in stuff behind the play, but for the most part I’m pretty happy. It was a good test for us, and I thought we played well enough to win.”
Plum completed a home-and-home sweep of Week Zero games, winning 32-14 last year.
Martin’s punt return score and a 53-yard touchdown connection from Ryan Hubner to Max Matolcsy came in a span of six minutes of the second quarter, which gave the Mustangs a 21-6 cushion going into halftime.
Hubner, in his varsity debut, made some plays with his feet and his arm, including a 43-yard run that set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Preston Sunday in the first quarter to give Plum a 7-0 lead.
Hubner threw for 108 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He was relieved by Jake Miller in the fourth quarter.
“(Hubner) is a threat with his legs, which is something that we haven’t had here at Plum in a few years,” Morgan said. “Both quarterbacks played well. Jake Miller came in at the end and played pretty well. We’re still trying to figure things out there, but hopefully we can grow off of this win.”
The Mustangs’ defense made an impact right away, forcing a fumble on Highlands’ second play from scrimmage. Plum (1-0) held the Golden Rams (0-1) to two first downs and 42 yards of offense in the first half.
Highlands had opportunities to cut into the lead in the second half, but were plagued by penalties and turnovers. On the opening drive of the second half, Highlands got the yardage needed for a crucial third down on a pass from Chandler Thimons to D.J. Loveland, but the play was called back by an illegal block in the back. The penalty ended up stalling the drive and forced the Golden Rams to punt.
Highlands also turned the ball over twice in the final two quarters.
“We shoot ourselves in the foot and you can’t do that, especially when you’re down and trying to get some momentum,” Highlands coach Dom Girardi said. “We started to create some momentum, but we had self-inflicted penalties and it just stopped. That was disappointing. The game was closer than the score in some ways, but in other ways the score was exactly where the score was if not further. You have to overcome the small mental mistakes and execute. If you don’t do that, then you’re not going to have success.”
Loveland had a big game defensively for the Golden Rams. He scored Highlands’ lone touchdown on a fumble recovery in the end zone in the first quarter and had two interceptions.
“DJ is one of the hardest workers we have,” Girardi said. “He’s a multi-sport athlete, but he always finds a way to get into the weight room and work hard all summer. Going out there and making plays on a Friday night just doesn’t happen. You have to work for it, and he did. We just need more of that from everybody.”
Brock White led the Golden Rams with 145 yards rushing on 26 carries, but had two fumbles.
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer
More Football• Ligonier Valley sending 11 players into college football
• Trib HSSN May Madness: Pat McAfee, Plum vs. Steve Breaston, Woodland Hills
• Avonworth’s Trevor Faulkner starting to reel in collegiate offers
• Trib HSSN May Madness: Montae Nicholson, Gateway vs. Spencer Lee, Franklin Regional
• Trib HSSN May Madness: Lamont Wade, Clairton vs. T.J. McConnell, Chartiers Valley