Quick start propels Plum past Armstrong; Mustangs finish regular season unbeaten

Friday, October 23, 2020 | 10:37 PM

Plum didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard in Friday’s Greater Allegheny Conference game against Armstrong at Mustangs Stadium.

Sophomore Eryck Moore took a handoff on Plum’s first play and raced around the right side for a 63-yard touchdown to give the Mustangs the lead just 18 seconds into the game.

“I was just thinking that I had to make a play and get us off to a good start,” Moore said. “I am glad I was able to set the tone.”

Plum didn’t slow down from there — the mercy rule kicked in at halftime — and it rolled past the River Hawks, 63-13.

“I challenged them to play like they did against Mars,” said Plum coach Matt Morgan, referring to his team’s 42-21 triumph at Mars on Sept. 25. “They definitely responded in the first half. We hadn’t played that well since Mars. I am glad to see them show up and play the way they are capable of playing. It’s good to see going into the playoffs.”

Plum completed the regular season 7-0. It is the program’s first undefeated regular season since 1977 (8-0-2).

The Mustangs now will wait until Saturday evening to find out the particulars of their Class 4A quarterfinal playoff game.

Plum already had wrapped up the conference title, its first since 1983, with last week’s win at Knoch.

The Mustangs came into Friday’s game averaging 34.7 points. They had 35 by the 6-minute, 31-second mark of the second quarter, and the touchdown to give them that total came on a special teams play by 6-foot-6, 290-pound senior lineman Evan Azzara.

Azzara blocked an Armstrong punt at the 3-yard line — he almost caught the ball — and recovered the ball in the end zone.

“I just wanted to get to the punter and block the kick. I didn’t expect to get a touchdown out of it,” said Azzara, a Miami (Ohio) verbal commit. “I did almost catch the ball, but, luckily, I landed on it. I still got the touchdown, and that’s all that matters.

“It was just a great feeling to see all my teammates with huge smiles on their faces. We wanted to make a statement and say, ‘Hey, we’re here to punch you in the mouth, and we’re not going to stop.’ ”

The Plum offense collected 375 of its 411 total yards in the first half, and the Mustangs led 56-7 at the break. The yards total over the first two quarters came even with the defense and special teams giving the offense a couple of short fields.

Moore’s night finished at halftime with 165 yards on nine carries. He added a 71-yard score late in the first half and scored from 1 yard at the 8:06 mark of the second quarter.

Plum senior quarterback Ryan Hubner, who gave way to junior Jake Miller in the second half, totaled 102 yards rushing on seven carries and scored on runs of 1, 37 and 27 yards. He added 103 yards through the air and completed a 33-yard TD strike to Logan Brooks.

Armstrong sophomore quarterback Cadin Olsen came into the game as the WPIAL’s leading passer. He averaged 327.4 yards and tallied 16 touchdowns through the first five games.

But the Mustangs defense made things difficult for Olsen. He had just 64 yards until he connected with senior wideout Cole Brown for a 49-yard touchdown late in the first half.

Olsen finished 12 of 26 for 135 yards and two touchdowns with one interception (Hubner).

“I wanted to make sure we could shut him down,” Morgan said. “I thought our defense did a tremendous job in doing that, outside of one broken play where our guys collided with each other, and (Brown) busted it for a touchdown. I think our quarterback (Hubner) showed up and played a little bit today, and I hope people are talking about him as well.”

Brown caught four passes for 95 yards. Armstrong finished 3-4 overall and in conference play.

“We were coming off a tough year last year, and I am appreciative of their efforts all throughout this season, especially our seniors,” Armstrong coach Frank Fabian said. “I think we got the boat turned and headed in the right direction.”

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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