Running game helps propel Plum past Kiski Area in opener

Friday, August 26, 2022 | 10:39 PM

In their first meeting since 2017 and the 34th overall between the football teams, Plum scored 21 second-half points to come away with a 35-14 opening-night victory over Kiski Area.

Both teams were conference opponents from 2014-17, and, despite the loss, Kiski Area still holds a (17-16-1) lead in the series. Both teams have moved classifications this season, with the Cavaliers dropping to 4A, and Plum moving back up into 5A.

“Kiski is a tough, physical football team,” Plum coach Matt Morgan said. “They’re young, too, and we’re more experienced, and that kind of took us over the edge.”

The Cavaliers drew first blood on their second possession, when senior quarterback Lebryn Smith found Dom Dinnino on 64-yard fly pattern down the near hash marks to give the Cavaliers a 7-0 lead.

The Cavaliers had another scoring strike from Smith to Dinnino wiped off the board when Smith was called for an illegal forward pass, negating a 60-yard touchdown.

Plum tied the score 13 seconds into the second quarter. After Bryce Roberson partially blocked a punt, which put the Mustangs near midfield, senior running back Eryck Moore took a screen pass from Sean Franzi and sprinted 51-yards to the end zone to make the score 7-7.

Moore, who has back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, had touchdown runs of 48 and 50-yards taken off the scoreboard by penalties in the second quarter. All told, the Mustangs had four touchdowns taken off the scoreboard, including a defensive score.

“Our kids are mature, resilient and tough. That’s the maturity of our team to be able to bounce back from all of those and finish the game off,” Morgan said.

Nick Odom picked up the slack after the second TD run was negated, taking a counter handoff 55-yards for a score to give Plum a 14-7 lead.

Smith played a big part in the Cavaliers tying the score on the final play before halftime. An interception got the ball back for Kiski Area with 32 seconds left. But the Cavaliers had three illegal procedure penalties that forced them back toward midfield. A short completion set up the Cavaliers at 32-yard line, and Smith again found Dinnino in the back left corner of the end zone as time expired.

Smith ended the night 11 of 17 passing for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Dinnino totaled three catches for 109 yards and the two touchdowns.

Plum’s first chance to break the tie came midway through the third quarter, but the Mustangs missed a 33-yard field goal.

They didn’t fail on their next chance, and, again, it was Odom who did the damage. The sophomore running back took a counter handoff and ran left, then cut back right and added his second 55-yard run to give the Mustangs a 21-14 lead.

The Cavaliers put together a long drive on their next possession, but the drive stalled at the Plum 14-yard line when junior linebacker Dom Beyer sacked Smith on a fourth-and-5 play.

“Dom is a tough kid. He’s undersized but very aggressive, and he loves to hit,” Morgan said. “He doesn’t back down from anybody, and I love having him in the middle of our defense.”

Morgan said besides the three big plays — one of which was called back because of a penalty — he was pleased with the Mustangs’ overall defensive effort.

Odom, who had four touchdowns all last season, added his third of the night with a 62-yard cutback score late in the fourth quarter. He finished with nine carries and 201 yards.

“We knew what Nicky would offer this year,” Morgan said. “He just matured one more year, and it was awesome to see him go tonight.”

His backfield mate, Moore, added the final score with an 18-yard run that counted this time, as the Mustangs capped their 21-point second half.

“We have two special running backs,” Morgan said. “I was celebrating with Nick more than Eryck on some of those touchdowns because we’re an unselfish team. To be a good football team, you have to be unselfish.”

Moore finished with 92 yards on the ground.

Plum (1-0) continues its nonconference home slate next week by hosting Fox Chapel. The Cavaliers (0-1) return home to face Class 5A No. 4 Pine-Richland in nonconference action.

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