Season of statements for Plum football

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Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Preston Sunday said Plum football’s WPIAL Class 4A first-round victory over former conference rival McKeesport was big in the ongoing process of what has turned out to be one of the most successful seasons in program history.

But the Mustangs senior running back and linebacker didn’t characterize the victory as a “statement” win.

“I think we’ve made a statement all season,” said Sunday in the days leading up to last Friday’s WPIAL semifinal matchup at defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A champion Thomas Jefferson.

“We’ve worked extra hard to meet our expectations and show people how good we are.”

The first-ever meeting between Plum and Thomas Jefferson was to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Plum coach Matt Morgan said his experienced group was good about quickly turning the focus from the celebration of Friday’s 12-9 victory over McKeesport to the 6-1 Jaguars, who bounced back from a loss to McKeesport in the regular-season finale to pound Mars, 41-6, in the first round.

“We always talk about flipping the page from one game to the next,” Morgan said. “Each game is a different chapter in the book we are writing. Obviously, McKeesport was a huge hurdle we overcame. These kids have been mature about everything all year.”

Plum’s win over McKeesport snapped a 13-game losing streak to McKeesport dating back to 1998. Plum’s last win over the Tigers came in the 1997 regular-season finale (20-19). Plum beat McKeesport three years in a row from 1995-97.

The 12 points scored also tied for the second-fewest scored in a playoff win in program history. The record is 10 scored in the Mustangs’ 10-6 win over New Castle in the 1983 WPIAL 4A Division II title game.

While the Plum offense was stymied at time against a quick McKeesport defense, the Mustangs defense was equally as stingy, as well as opportunistic.

Plum forced five turnovers — four interceptions and a fumble. Two of the interceptions came on Tigers offensive possessions in the second half as the Mustangs rallied from a 9-6 halftime deficit.

The Plum defense also forced two punts and a turnover on downs in shutting out McKeesport over the final 24 minutes.

“It was just a collective group of everyone doing their job and doing it at the highest level possible,” Morgan said.

McKeesport got on the board in the latter stages of the first quarter with a field goal after Plum’s Reed Martin missed a 42-yarder.

On the second play from scrimmage, Jahmil Perryman ripped of a 72-yard run down to the Plum 17. But the drive stalled, and the Tigers settled for the three points.

“What really saved us and set the tone for the rest of the game was how Logan Brooks hustled across the field and made a beeline to prevent the touchdown,” Morgan said. “That was big considering the final score. That just showed these guys on defense had each other’s backs. After that, I thought our defense played magnificently.”

Plum’s points against McKeesport came in the form of a 5-yard scoring pass from Ryan Hubner to Reed Martin in the second quarter and a 12-yard run by Eryck Moore early in the third.

The win put Plum in the WPIAL semifinals for the first time since 1996, Morgan’s sophomore season. That year, the Mustangs upended Penn Hills in the quarterfinals before falling to a loaded Woodland Hills team that went on to win the first of four Quad-A titles in a seven-year span.

“I’ve had a lot of past teammates reach out to me, and I’ve seen so much on Facebook and elsewhere,” Morgan said.

“There’s been such excitement for what this team has accomplished. It’s been a heckuva ride, and I am just so proud of everybody here. It’s something the school and community needed in the worst way with 2020 being the way it is. But it’s not just us. The boys and girls soccer teams and the girls volleyball team have done great things, too. It’s been amazing to see all that success this fall. Hopefully, it can carry over to the winter and spring. I just wish the community could’ve enjoyed it more with more (people) being able to come to the games.”

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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