Trib HSSN football team of the week for 2023 Week 5

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Sunday, October 1, 2023 | 8:18 PM


For the Moon football team, it’s not hard to guess what rides they gravitate toward when they visit Kennywood Park.

The way things have gone the last two and a half years, they are lined up for one of the park’s roller coasters.

In 2021, the Tigers reached great heights when they won their first 12 games of the season and played in the WPIAL Class 5A championship game, losing to Penn-Trafford in heartbreaking fashion, 24-21.

Last fall, the Tigers plummeted to great depths as they lost their first nine games before beating Baldwin in their season finale.

This season has already had big ups and downs.

Moon lost its first three games to West Allegheny (4-2), Montour (5-1) and Mt. Lebanon (4-2) by 3, 14 and 3 points.

However, the Tigers have turned it around starting with a Week 3 stunner of Class 5A top-ranked Penn Hills. They followed that win with a victory over Mars.

On Friday, the car continued to go up for Moon as it shut down South Fayette in the team’s Allegheny 6 Conference opener.

“It’s been kind of nuts,” Moon coach Ryan Linn said. “We kind of assumed we were going to have some growth; we knew we were going to have some ups and downs. The first three weeks we were right there. I told the kids going into Penn Hills that we were closer to 2-1 than you are 0-3 so just keep trusting what you’re doing.”

After the Lions jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one quarter, the Tigers came to life in the second quarter when senior Josh Bladel scored on a 12-yard run, followed by a splash play by the defense when sophomore defensive end Jared Moyer scooped and scored on a 31-yard fumble return for a TD.

“Josh scored and that allowed us to regain our composure a little bit,” Linn said. “We sent a blitz and Josh (Bladel) gets through and Nico (Lamonde) kept backpedaling and the ball popped out and Jared coming from the other side scooped and scored, and that’s the second week in a row for him. In a matter of three plays, we’re up 14-3.”

The Tigers pounded it out from there on the ground. They are a run-heavy team that relies on two backs — Bladel and junior Nazir Brookins — who both scored touchdowns Friday. Brookinsscored on a 2-yard run against South Fayette.

“Two completely different kids in terms of demeanor and size, but they run the same,” Linn said. “Naz is 6-foot-1 and almost 230 and Josh is maybe 5-9, 175. Both are extremely tough runners and hard to bring down. Naz allows us to do what we do because he can soften a defense up just by being a bruiser on the inside, and Josh hits them from the edge and a lot of misdirection. They’re a heck of a 1-2 punch for us this year.”

If the Moon roller coaster ride is going to continue to go up, the Tigers will need to upset another top-ranked Indians team.

In Week 6, Moon visits Peters Township in a battle of unbeaten conference foes.

“Since they came down into 5A, they have been really good,” Linn said. “T.J. (Plack) has done a great job over there and has had a lot of great teams the last couple of years. We know going in they are going to be well prepared and we’re going to have to be equally well prepared to give ourselves a chance.

“We’ve had some battles with them that last couple of years (that) I know he and I enjoy. It’s a lot of fun for our kids to play in these kinds of games. We’re going to have to be strong up front, use our ball control and limit their big plays. Friday will be a big test for us.”

WPIAL Week 5 Honorable Mentions

North Allegheny Tigers and Upper St. Clair Panthers

These two are lumped together for a reason. Both NA and USC were coming off painful first losses of the season a week ago, the Tigers falling to visiting Central Catholic while the Panthers were shut out by host Peters Township. But both of these cats took their frustrations out this week on archrivals as North Allegheny cruised past Pine-Richland, 45-10, behind three touchdown tosses and two scoring runs by Logan Kushner, while Upper St. Clair knocked off Mt. Lebanon, 42-27, behind Mason Chambers’ 202 yards.

Mt. Pleasant Vikings

While some teams have made a lot of noise jumping out to good starts this season, Mt. Pleasant has quietly built a strong resume toward being one of the top teams in Class 3A. The Vikings won four of their first five games heading into their Interstate Conference opener at Greensburg Salem. Dante Giallonardo rushed for 151 yards with two touchdown runs and a scoring reception as Mt. Pleasant improved to 5-1 heading into a showdown against unbeaten Elizabeth Forward with a 38-7 win over the Golden Lions.

Clairton Bears

Like the team of the week, Moon, Clairton has joined them on that same roller coaster ride. The Bears lost their first two games to 2A unbeaten powers Westinghouse and Washington before winning four straight games, including their first three Class A Eastern Conference contests. In Week 5, Mike Wright hit on 10 of 11 passes for 145 passes and Drahcir Jones ran for 271 yards as Clairton clubbed Greensburg Central Catholic, 40-28.

2023 HSSN Teams of the Week

Week 4 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars

Week 3 – Knoch Knights

Week 2 – Waynesburg Central Raiders

Week 1 – Aliquippa Quips

Week Zero – Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils

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