Plum hoping to carry momentum from strong finish into new season

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Thursday, August 11, 2022 | 12:01 AM


Plum football coach Matt Morgan watched a young group of players mature on the fly to win three of their last five games and earn a playoff berth last season.

Now a year older, they’ll have a new challenge ahead of them as the Mustangs bump up from Class 4A to 5A and play in a conference featuring defending state champ Penn-Trafford and perennial power Gateway among others.

“I’m excited for this group,”said Morgan, who is entering his 10th season at Plum. “It’s a special group, and it was fun to see them hit that turning point last year and play very well the last three or four weeks to pick up some momentum coming into this year.

“Honestly, we had three or four returners from our conference championship team two years ago, so we had a ton of inexperience and a lot of them were freshmen and sophomores. Now they’re sophomores and juniors. I can’t wait to see how they mature over the year and what they can do on the field against some really good competition.”

In terms of upperclassmen, Morgan said they only have a handful of seniors they’ll be counting on, but there were plenty of freshmen and sophomores that saw a ton of varsity time in 2021.

One of those seniors is running back Eryck Moore.

Moore has rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons.

“Eryck has been a special guy for us since day one,” Morgan said. “I enjoy having him on the team. He’s a great kid and a great leader. The kids respond to him. We’ve got to keep him healthy, keep him going, give him some creases and let him do his thing.”

Another senior two-way player is Kaden Thomas, who has been second-team all-conference each of the last two years. Morgan said Thomas has a chip on his shoulder because he wants to be a first-teamer.

Sean Franzi, a junior, took over at quarterback last year and passed for nearly 1,200 yards and had a dozen touchdowns. Morgan is impressed with Franzi’s makeup.

“He showed a lot of guts and moxie, which is what you want to see in a quarterback,” Morgan said. “He’s taken a major step forward with the leadership role that comes with being a quarterback. It’s exciting for me to see how he commands the attention of his team.”

Franzi’s top target last year, Logan Brooks, graduated, but Morgan said several players showed well during the summer at receiver. One of those was sophomore Darian Nelson, who started on both sides of the field as a freshman.

“I’ve never had a kid have that much of a body of work as a freshman and be an impact player as well,” Morgan said. “He’s definitely going to be a name that everyone is going to pay attention to this year and the next two years to come. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Aside from Gateway and Penn-Trafford, Plum has Franklin Regional, Norwin and Hempfield as conference opponents. Many of those schools were conference mates with Plum prior to the PIAA moving to six classes.

“There’s some new faces as head coaches throughout those teams, but we’ll be prepared going into the season, because we’re familiar with a lot of those schools,” Morgan said. “Even when we weren’t playing them, we were doing some 7-on-7s with them.”

Plum

Coach: Matt Morgan

2021 record: 3-8, 3-4 in Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference

All-time record: 338-424-27

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 Kiski Area, 7

9.2 at Fox Chapel, 7

9.9 Shaler, 7

9.16 Norwin*, 7

9.23 at Gateway*, 7

9.30 at Franklin Regional*, 7

10.7 South Fayette, 7

10.14 at Penn-Trafford*, 7:30

10.21 Hempfield*, 7

10.28 at Indiana, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Sean Franzi

91-176, 1,184 yards, 12TDs

Rushing: Eryck Moore

155-1037, 9 TDs

Receiving: Logan Brooks*

50-569, 4TDs

FAST FACTS

• The Mustangs have a couple new coaches on the staff. Defensive coordinator Charles Morris left to become head coach at Penn Hills and defensive backs coach Levon Wesley went with him. Former Shaler and Seton LaSalle head coach Chris Siegle takes over as defensive coordinator. A.J. Saunders, who was the assistant head coach at Valley last year, is the new defensive backs coach.

• Plum will host Kiski Area in Week Zero. It’s the first time the two schools, which are 14 miles apart, have met since 2017 when Plum won 9-6.

• There were some upgrades to the facilities through Pat McAfee’s $2 million fund set up for all of Plum athletics. The locker room walls are completely wrapped with murals. Coach Matt Morgan said the facilities have a college-like feel now and that the players are super excited about it.

• Plum has had a knack of having standout kickers and punters dating back to McAfee’s days of wearing the purple and gold. That is the case again this year with returning all-conference performer Angelo Baleno. McAfee has worked with Baleno in the past. Baleno, a sophomore, also gets to work with former Plum and Slippery Rock University kicker/punter Jake Chapla, who is Plum’s special teams coordinator.

ROSTER

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

1, Eryck Moore-Watkins, RB/DB, 6-2/195, Sr.

2, Bryce Roberson, WR/DB, 5-9/185, Sr.

3, Jack Tongel, WR/LB, 5-10/185, Jr.

4, Kaden Thomas, WR/LB, 6-0/190, Sr.

5, Darian Nelson, WR/DB, 6-2/185, So.

6, Sean Franzi, QB/DB, 5-11/170, Jr.

7, Owen Proskin, QB/DB, 6-3/175, Fr.

8, Zachary Napierkowski, WR/DB, 6-1/180, Jr.

9, Anthony Irwin, WR/DB, 5-10/170, Jr.

10, Noah Odom, WR/DB, 5-9/170, So.

11, Nyan East, WR/DB, 5-9/155, Jr.

12, T.J. Futules, QB/DB, 6-0/165, So.

13, Regis Burris, WR/DB, 5-5/165, Fr.

14, Keyonta Finley, RB/LB, 5-8/180, Sr.

16, Vincent Febbraro, WR/DB, 5-7/150, Jr.

18, Landen Ekiert, WR/LB, 5-8/155, Fr.

19, Michael Barr, WR/DB, 6-1/160, Jr.

20, Brandon Wiesenbach, QB/LB, 5-10/190, Jr.

21, Nick Lamia, WR/DB, 5-9/175, Sr.

23, Cy Thompkins, RB/DB, 5-9/155, So.

24, Jerome Brazell, WR/DB, 5-11/165, Jr.

25, D’Angelo Palermo, RB/DB, 5-5/140, Jr.

26, Dom Beyer, RB/LB, 5-7/170, Jr.

27, Eugene Hanzlik, RB/LB, 5-10/155, Fr.

28, Nick Sheffo, RB/LB, 5-10/160, So.

29, Donald Lauricia, WR/DB, 5-2/120, Fr.

30, Dominic Baker, WR/DB, 5-7/145, Fr.

31, Antonio Hanzlik, WR/DB, 5-10/145, Fr.

32, Owen Campbell, WR/DB, 5-4/120, Fr.

33, Adam Smith, TE/LB, 5-11/165, So.

34, Aldair Flowers, K/P, 5-10/150, So.

36, Nick Odom, RB/LB, 5-9/185, So.

40, Douglas Harchick, RB/LB, 5-8/135, Fr.

42, Karter Gilliland, WR/DB, 5-3/110, Fr.

43, Quentin Caperton, WR/DB, 5-4/125, Fr.

44, Trent Reese, RB/LB, 5-10/145, So.

45, Toks Adepetoye, WR/DB, 5-8/165, Fr.

48, Thomas Payne, WR/DL, 5-7/170, Sr.

48, Olivia Bigger, K, 5-6/130, Fr.

50, Darian Slaughter, TE/DL, 6-3/230, So.

51, Deon Steave, WR/LB, 5-10/210, Sr.

53, Josh Curry, OL/DL, 5-9/200, So.

54, Matthew Nelson, OL/DL, 5-7/190, Fr.

55, Nate Kondas, OL/DL, 5-10/220, Jr.

56, Matt Horvatic, OL/DL, 6-0/220, Jr.

57, Kameron Dietrick, TE/LB, 5-11/200, Fr.

58, Logan Wiesenbach, OL/DL, 5-10/220, Jr.

60, Jonathan Turner, OL/DL, 5-10/220, Fr.

62, Frank Grazulis, OL/DL, 5-10/245, Fr.

63, Mikeal Arce, OL/DL, 5-9/210, Fr.

66, Jacob Shipley, OL/DL, 5-10/230, Jr.

68, Jack Froehlich, OL/DL, 6-2/240, Fr.

70, Max Scheer, OL/DL, 6-2/200, Jr.

71, Chase Schrock, OL/DL, 6-3/275, So.

72, Devin Curler, OL/DL, 6-2/275, Jr.

74, Evan Corrigan, OL/DL, 6-1/235, Fr.

75, Anthony DelMastro, OL/DL, 6-0/275, Fr.

76, Ben Stricklin, OL/DL, 6-2/215, Fr.

79, Chase Nesbitt, OL/DL, 6-0/250, Fr.

80, Matthew Loehlein, OL/DL, 5-10/165, Jr.

81, Raphael Still, WR/DB, 5-5/115, Fr.

82, Cameron Wilson, WR/DB, 5-11/150, Fr.

83, Brendan Marston, WR/DB, 5-9/140, Fr.

84, Sloan Humphries, WR/DB, 5-4/110, Fr.

85, Justin Kuhn, WR/DB, 6-0/175, Jr.

86, Elijah Jackson, WR/DB, 5-9/160, Fr.

87, Gio Yanovich, WR/DB, 5-8/130, So.

88, Dorrian Anderson, OL/DL, 5-10/180, So.

89, Angelo Baleno, K/P, 5-10/150, So.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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