Trib HSSN football team of the week for 2023 Week Zero

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Sunday, August 27, 2023 | 9:54 PM


In high school football, defense plays big in November when championships are at stake.

Mt. Lebanon showed in Week Zero that defense and physical play does pretty good in August, as well.

The Blue Devils limited the high-octane offense of Gateway to 141 total yards in upsetting the Gators, 28-7, in Week Zero.

“Game planning was a little difficult because I’m not familiar with our opponent at all coming from Elizabeth Forward, and you only have one scrimmage film to break down, but I give all the credit to the kids,” first-year coach Mike Collodi said.

The Gators took the opening kickoff and drove from their own 33-yard line to the Blue Devils 11 with a mix of passes and runs in an up-tempo offense.

However, on fourth-and-1, Mt. Lebanon sophomore Patrick Smith came up with the game-changing play when he deflected an option pitch from Gateway quarterback Brad Birch, picked the ball up, broke a tackle and ran 89 yards for the opening score.

“Pat Smith’s scoop and score was a massive change in momentum for us,” Mt. Lebanon senior running back and linebacker Beckham Dee said. “I think that gave us the confidence that we needed to utilize the skills we acquired in the offseason.”

After that, the Mt. Lebanon line of scrimmage and defense took over as Gateway went three-and-out on their next three possessions.

The Gators ended up with 10 first downs, most coming on that first drive and their final drive in the fourth quarter that led to their only score of the night.

“I do feel our physicality, conditioning and toughness led to us dominating the line of scrimmage,” Dee said. “Our togetherness and toughness won us that game.”

Smith, who later came in to play quarterback, led the Blue Devils on the ground with 68 yards on only six carries, including a 28-yard touchdown run.

Dee had 28 yards on eight carries and scored on a 1-yard run with 17 seconds left in the first half.

Mt. Lebanon senior quarterback Michael Malone was 4 of 8 passing for 60 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to senior Ezra Heidenreich.

The game ball was awarded to Collodi for his first victory as head coach at Mt. Lebanon.

By all indications, it might be his first of many.

WPIAL Week Zero mentions:

Montour

It took a half for the Montour offense to kick in, but when it did, it was scary good. Senior quarterback Jake Wolfe hit on 12 of 22 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown, plus ran for 104 yards and two scores as the Spartans scored 27 second-half points on their way to defeating host Mars, 37-28, in a nonconference battle of 4A teams expected to contend for their respective conference crowns.

Waynesburg Central

Twenty-three years ago, Waynesburg Central lost to Aliquippa in the WPIAL 2A football championship game. However, coming into this season, the Raiders had lost their last 13 games dating to Oct. 1, 2021. The losing streak is a distant memory now after an impressive win over host Carmichaels. Jacob Stephenson threw for 143 yards and two touchdowns, and Breydon Woods rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns as the Raiders blanked the Mighty Mikes, 35-0.

Carlynton

It had also been a while since Carlynton recorded a victory. The Cougars lost all 10 games last season and 14 in a row since their previous victory, a 6-0 triumph over Brentwood on Oct. 1, 2021. Carlynton is perfect in 2023, though, after a one-sided victory over Carrick. The Cougars scored 13 points in each of the first three quarters to beat the Raiders, 46-6.

2022 HSSN Teams of the Week:

Week 11 – Upper St. Clair Panthers

Week 10 – Woodland Hills Wolverines

Week 9 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars

Week 8 – Apollo-Ridge Vikings

Week 7 – Seneca Valley Raiders

Week 6 – Sto-Rox Vikings

Week 5 – Laurel Highlands Mustangs

Week 4 – West Mifflin Titans

Week 3 – McKeesport Tigers

Week 2 – Ellwood City Wolverines

Week 1 – Bethel Park Black Hawks

Week Zero – Mars Fightin’ Planets

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