Plum plans encore after historic season

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Friday, August 20, 2021 | 6:01 AM


Plum football enters this fall in a position it hasn’t been in since 1983: defending conference champion.

The Mustangs had a banner year in 2020, going undefeated in the Greater Allegheny Conference, and they were within three points of knocking off eventual state champion Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL semifinals.

The roster will be different this year after plenty of key players graduated, but Mustangs coach Matt Morgan likes the potential of his younger skill position players and expects to compete with the top teams in Class 4A again.

“I know we lost a lot, but we still have a ton of playmakers coming back and I’m excited for it,” Morgan said.

Among the list of graduates was quarterback Ryan Hubner, who passed for 1,300 yards last year and had 15 touchdowns to two interceptions. Leading receiver Reed Martin (Edinboro) also graduated along with offensive lineman Evan Azzara (Miami, Ohio) and two-way standout Max Matolcy (Penn).

One key returner is junior running back Eryck Moore.

Moore averaged 8 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns last season.

“In my 14 years of coaching high school football, even when I was at Gateway and Penn Hills, he’s the most talented running back I’ve ever been around,” Morgan said. “He’s big, he’s physical, he’s fast and he’s smart. He checks all the boxes, so to speak. He was a leader last year as a sophomore, so that kind of role doesn’t really affect him. He’s embracing it. We’re obviously going to be built around him. He’s the most established piece to our offense, until other guys step up.”

Junior Santino Saccone and sophomore Sean Franzi are battling for the starting quarterback position.

Logan Brooks, who was second on the team in receptions last year, Samo Pitts, a transfer from Clairton, and David Westrick are seniors who will line up at wide receiver. Freshman Darian Nelson will be in the mix at the skill positions and on defense, as well. Morgan said Nelson is a special talent whom he believes will be a NCAA Division-I caliber athlete when his four years are finished at Plum.

Keyonta Finley and Nathan Kondos are players who Morgan said had impressive summers. Finley has played running back in the past but might move to offensive line because of his strength and will be a linebacker. Kondos will be the center and play on the defensive line.

With many young players getting a lot of first-team reps this fall, Morgan said it is important for him and his coaching staff to keep them grounded and focused.

“It’s natural for any kind of teenage kid at any school that hasn’t had traditional success to maybe take it for granted, so it’s our job as coaches to push them,” Morgan said. “We’ve actually pushed them harder than we did last year and working toward the same goals, to be conference champs and go even further in the playoffs.

“We have a big group of freshmen and sophomores that will be contributors for us, and they haven’t had that taste that the seniors from last year had. Hopefully they can keep excelling the program forward.”

Plum will meet some former conference rivals in nonsection play beginning with a trip to Franklin Regional for Week Zero on Aug. 27.

“We’re going to know who we are really quickly,” Morgan said. “Franklin Regional is always a tough, physical football team, and then we play North Hills, who is going to be a very good football team. We saw that last year when we scrimmaged against them. Then we have Fox Chapel, who Coach (Tom) Loughran turned into a really physical football team. We’ll know what we are made out of physically and mentally after those three games. Hopefully we come out of them healthy and ready to go into conference play.”

Plum

Coach: Matt Morgan

2020 record: 8-1, 7-0 in Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference

All-time record: 335-416-27

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.28 at Franklin Regional, 7

9.3 at North Hills, 7

9.10 Fox Chapel, 7

9.17 Indiana*, 7

9.24 Mars:, 7

10.1 at Highlands, 7

10.8 Hampton*, 7

10.15 Knoch*, 7

10.22 at Armstrong*, 7

10.29 Greensburg-Salem*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Ryan Hubner

83-141, 1,301 yards, 15 TDs

Rushing: Eryck Moore

108-862, 13 TDs

Receiving: Reed Martin*

39-534, 6 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Not only did Plum win a conference title last year for the first time in 35 years, but it completed its first undefeated regular season since 1975.

• Plum’s lone WPIAL football championship came in 1983 when it defeated New Castle, 10-6. It is the only championship appearance for the Mustangs.

• On defense, Plum will have to replace its top six leading tacklers from last year. Max Matolcy (75 tackles) and Preston Sunday (71) were the top two tacklers last year and had a team-best four sacks each.

• Prior to last year, Plum’s last winning season came in 2015, when it finished 6-4 and lost 42-28 to McKeesport in the first round of the playoffs. The 2020 season was the first time the Mustangs made the playoffs since the PIAA moved from four classifications to six.

ROSTER

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

1, Eryck Moore, RB/LB, 6-1/190, Jr.

2, David Westrick, WR/DB, 5-10/185, Sr.

3, Jack Tongel, WR/LB, 5-8/160, So.

4, Shandon Walsh, TE/DE, 5-10/185, Sr.

5, Darian Nelson, WR/RB/DB, 6-1/180, Fr.

6, Sean Franzi, QB/DB, 5-8/150, So.

7, Michael Leone, TE/LB, 6-1/170, Sr.

8, Sa-mo Pitts, WR/DB, 6-4/160, Sr.

9, Logan Brooks, WR/DB, 5-11/175, Sr.

10, Noah Odom WR/DB 5-7/135 Fr.

11, Santino Saccone, QB/DB, 6-0/170, Jr.

12, Anthony Futules, QB/DB, 5-10/145, Fr.

13, Anthony Irwin, WR/DB, 5-10/170, So.

14, Brady Dojonovic, QB/LB, 5-10/175, Jr.

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

18, Dominic Colamarino, WR/DB, 6-1/155, Fr.

19, Michael Barr, WR/DB, 6-0/145, So.

20, Brandon Wiesenbach, QB/LB, 5-11/170, So.

24, Keyonta Finley, RB/OL/LB, 5-7/165, Jr.

25, Gio Yanovich, WR/DB, 5-1/100, Fr.

26, Dominic Beyer, RB/LB, 5-5/145, So.

27, Deon Steave, WR/DB, 5-8/175, Jr.

28, Nicholas Sheffo, RB/LB, 5-9/140, Fr.

29, Grant Durst, WR/DB, 5-7/130, So.

33, Adam Smith, RB/LB, 5-9/150, Fr.

34, Landon Marullo, RB/LB, 5-7/165, Fr.

36, Nicholas Odom, RB/DE, 5-7/170, Fr.

40, Nyan East, WR/DB, 5-8/140, So.

42, Ryan Grimm, WR/DB, 5-6/160, Fr.

43, Naiser Quarles, WR/DB, 5-6/185, Fr.

44, Trent Reese, RB/DB, 5-7/145, Fr.

45, Kendas Quarles, WR/DB, 5-10/195, Jr.

48, Thomas Payne, RB/LB, 5-7/170, Jr.

52, Kade Thomas, OL/DL, 6-0/180, Jr.

53, Joshua Curry, OL/DL, 5-4/175, Fr.

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

56, Matthew Horvatic, OL/DL, 6-1/175, So.

57, James Burgess, OL/DL, 6-3/185, Fr.

58, Logan Wiesenbach, OL/DL, 5-10/185, So.

60, Max Scheer, OL/DL, 6-1/225, So.

62, Logan O’Donnell, OL/DL, 6-0/220, Jr.

64, Jack Majors, OL/DL, 5-10/255, Sr.

65, Austin Mitchell, OL/DL, 5-11/230, Jr.

66, Jacob Shipley, OL/DL, 5-7/205, So.

71, Chase Schrock, OL/DL, 6-1/260, Fr.

72, Devin Curler, OL/DL, 6-2/250, So.

73, Colin Golebiewski, OL/DL, 6-4/200, Sr.

76, Collin Popilli, OL/DL, 5-9/210, Jr.

77, Jordan Major, OL/DL, 6-2/275, Sr.

78, Mason Essig, OL/DL, 6-1/280, Fr.

79, Wayne Griffin, OL/DL, 6-1/300, Sr.

80, Matthew Loehlein, WR/DB, 5-9/140, So.

84, Zac Napierkowski, WR/DB, 5-10/140, So.

85, Darian Slaughter, TE/DE, 6-0/220, Fr.

86, Preston Nixdorf, WR/DB, 5-7/110, Fr.

87, Ben Hartley, WR/DB, 5-3/100, Fr.

88, Dorrian Anderson, TE/DL, 5-7/200, Fr.

89, Angelo Baleno, RB/DB, 5-7/160, Fr.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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