Plum hopes experience translates to success

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Friday, August 16, 2019 | 10:22 PM


The Plum football team last made the WPIAL playoffs in 2015 when it upset Penn Hills in a Quad-A first-round matchup.

Mustangs coach Matt Morgan said the past three seasons out of the playoff picture, including last fall’s 2-8 campaign, were frustrating for him and his players, but with several key contributors back, that all could change in 2019.

“We’ve got several good pieces in the skill positions, and a lot of them were sophomores last year,” Morgan said. “They were really good, all-conference guys. The biggest thing for us is continuing to put in the hard work.”

Leading the way are returning All-Foothills (Class 5A) selections in juniors Billy Guzzi (second team, running back), Max Matolcsy (second team, outside linebacker), Reed Martin (second team, defensive back), Evan Azzara (honorable mention, offensive tackle) and Jaden Nichols (honorable mention, defensive end) and senior Nic Sluka (honorable mention, defensive back).

“We’ve been working hard, and you could see this team really coming together in the offseason,” said Matolcsy, who led the team last year in receiving yards (533) and touchdowns (four), as well as tackles (66) and interceptions (three).

“We have a lot of experience back this year, and we should be competitive against the teams in the conference.”

Sophomore Jake Miller, junior Ryan Hubner and freshman Santino Saccone began preseason practices in the running to replace multi-year starter Hunter Linhart at quarterback.

Morgan said all three did good things in offseason workouts, and expected the team’s scrimmage against North Hills to go a long way in sorting things out.

He said it hurt losing all-conference linemen Cooper Aubele and Adam Garvin to graduation, but Azzara, senior Braeden Koehler and others hope to bring the line together.

“We’ve got to be able to jell fast and keep those quarterbacks upright to get the ball to all our playmakers,” Morgan said. “It’s been a dogfight to see who will be the last (players) standing.”

Sophomore receiver Logan Brooks, Morgan said, has turned heads.

“Logan is one of the quicker players we have,” Morgan said. “He’s very elusive. He’s a playmaker. I’m excited to see what he can do after playing one year as a freshman.”

Junior linebacker Preston Sunday, also a running back, finished third on the team with 42 tackles. Senior Nathan Dumbaugh will be in the mix at corner and also will get carries at tailback.

Nichols will help anchor the defensive line.

“Jaden is such a hard worker, and he really changed his body in the offseason,” Morgan said. “He puts in a lot of effort here, and he goes and puts in more at home.”

Senior linebacker Rocco Knauss also hopes to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

“These guys understand what happened to them last year, and they don’t want it to happen again,” Morgan said.

“The difference between last year and this year is they are doing a better job of holding themselves accountable. We have a good group of leaders who want to take control of things, police each other and push each other. The talent is here to not have another losing season.”

Gateway, Penn-Trafford, McKeesport, Franklin Regional and Latrobe represented the Foothills in the Class 5A playoffs last year. Gateway beat Franklin Regional in the quarterfinals before falling to WPIAL champion West Allegheny, and McKeesport and Penn-Trafford also made the Round of 8.

“It’s a brutal conference, and we know what we are facing. The upper-core teams of the conference are never not going to be what they are,” Morgan said. “We just have to be able to get in the fight like we have been in the past and overcome last year’s hurdles and growing pains.”

Plum opens with a Week Zero game before hosting conference rival Franklin Regional on Aug. 30.

“We got the better of Franklin two years ago, and they embarrassed us last year,” Morgan said. “It left a bad taste in all of our mouths. We’re focusing on that Week 1 game as much as they focused on us last year. It should be another great football environment.”

Plum also will play Weir (W.Va.) in Week 6 as a replacement for Albert Gallatin, which left the WPIAL after last season.

“It’s a weird week in the season, and it was kind of difficult to find somebody to schedule,” Morgan said. “We put feelers out to schools in Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio and West Virginia, and they were one of two or three West Virginia schools to reach out to us. We didn’t want to travel on a week we knew it was supposed to be a home game. They were willing to come to us, and we signed them on.”

Schedule

Coach: Matt Morgan

2018 record: 2-8, 1-6

All-time record: 324-408-27

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, at Highlands, 7

8.30, Franklin Regional*, 7

9.6, at Gateway*, 7

9.13, Connellsville*, 7

9.20, McKeesport*, 7

9.27, at Penn-Trafford*, 7:30

10.4, Weir, W.Va., 7

10.11, at Latrobe*, 7

10.18, Belle Vernon, 7

10.25, at Hempfield, 7

*Class 5A Foothills Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Hunter Linhart*

84-221, 1,068 yards, 8 TDs

Rushing: Billy Guzzi

114-563 yards, 1 TD

Receiving: Max Matolcsy

33-533 yards, 4 TDs

*Graduated

Plum roster

No., Name, Pos., Ht./Wt., Cl.

1, William Guzzi, RB/DB, 5-8/155, Jr.

2, Reed Martin, WR/DB, 5-8/170, Jr.

3, Preston Sunday, RB/LB, 5-8/180, Jr.

4, Zack Hartley, WR/DB, 5-5/120, Jr.

5, Nathan Dumbaugh, RB/DB, 5-9/150, Sr.

7, Max Matolcsy, TE/WR/LB, 6-1/210, Jr.

8, Nic Sluka, WR/DB, 6-0/180, Sr.

9, Logan Brooks, WR/DB, 5-10/145, So.

10, Ryan Hubner, QB/DB, 5-11/175, Jr.

11, Santino Saccone, QB/DB, 6-1/135, Fr.

12, Jacob Miller, QB/LB, 6-0/175, So.

14, Joel Tarzoho, WR/DB, 6-0/165, Sr.

15, Jason Jackson, WR/DB, 5-10/145, Sr.

18, David Westrick, WR/DB, 5-11/160, So.

20, Max Majocha, WR/DB, 5-9/160, Sr.

21, Aidan Tomko, WR/DB, 6-0/170, Sr.

23, Tyler Kolankowski, K/P, 5-10/150, Sr.

24, Keyonta Finley, RB/LB, 5-5/155, Fr.

25, Mason Humphries, RB/LB, 5-9/180, Sr.

27, Brady Dojonovic, RB/LB, 5-8/145, Fr.

28, Johnny Ioannou, RB/DB, 5-9/155, Fr.

29, Zach Fields, WR/DB, 6-0/170, Jr.

30, Frank Macioce, RB/LB, 5-8/175, Fr.

33, Jay Thornton, TE/LB, 5-10/165, Fr.

34, Luke Shebeck, RB/LB, 5-10/155, So.

36/57, Anthony Gaia, RB/LB, 5-11/165, Fr.

42/54, Rocco Knauss, RB/LB, 5-9/185, Sr.

48, Michael Leone, TE/LB, 6-0/160, So.

50, Logan O’Donnell, OL/DL, 5-10/210, Fr.

52, Jaden Nichols, OL/DL, 6-1/200, Jr.

56, Braeden Koehler, OL/DL, 5-11/255, Sr.

58, Bill Depew, OL/DL, 5-10/235, Jr.

63, Nick Stitt, OL/DL, 6-2/210, Sr.

64, Jack Majors, OL/DL, 5-9/210, So.

65, Austin Mitchell, OL/DL, 5-9/215, Fr.

66, Ian Lamia, OL/DL, 5-9/265, Jr.

67, Josh George, OL/DL, 6-3/210, Sr.

70, James Stitt, OL/DL, 5-7/170, Fr.

72, Evan Azzara, OL/DL, 6-6/265, Jr.

73, Luke Wolfe, OL/DL, 6-0/215, Sr.

77, Jordan Major, OL/,DL, 6-1/275, Jr.

78, Akil Washington, OL/DL, 6-1/250, Sr.

80, Shandon Walsh, TE/DE, 5-10/190, So.

81, Kaden Thomas, TE/LB, 5-11/180, Fr.

82, Nick Lamia, WR/DB, 5-6/130, Fr.

84, Andrew Thompson, WR/DB, 5-7/130, Fr.

85, Rocco Caprara, TE/LB, 6-0/190, So.

87, Joey Telles, WR/DB, 5-4/128, Fr.

88, Zach Orphanopulos, WR/DB, 5-7/135, Fr.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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