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Plum Defeats McKeesport In Defensive Quarterfinal Battle 12-9 @NickHaus75

Written by: on Monday, November 2nd, 2020

 

By: Nick Haushalter

The first round of playoffs kicked off last night as Plum held on for a thrilling down-to-the-wire 12-9 win against visiting McKeesport. Both teams had plenty of momentum heading into the game: just last week the Tigers pulled off a major upset against perennial powerhouse Thomas Jefferson, while the Mustangs enjoyed an undefeated regular season. Plum and McKeesport have each received high praise for their stellar defensive units throughout the season. That trend continued last night; offenses struggled to gain momentum at any point, and the game ended with only three touchdowns between the two of them.

It is easy to point to Mustang’s ability to force turnovers as a large factor for their win. On the opening drive, Plum safety Logan Brooks made a leaping grab and took the ball right out of the hands of the McKeesport receiver. This was followed soon after by a fumble recovered by the Mustang defense. Plum’s Zach Fields became the greatest threat to the McKeesport passing game after catching two interceptions (one of which was an incredible grab through a tight window) and dropping one. McKeesport proved to be consistently unable to hold onto the ball long enough to create long drives.

And yet the Tigers’ defense shone in their own way as well. In fact, none of the five turnovers which Plum recovered were converted into points in the red zone. Most were followed by a renewed stoutness by McKeesport and resulted in three-and-outs. It is quite remarkable that the Tigers lost by only three points after giving up the ball so many times and taking it not once. They were able to create frequent pressure on the QB, sniff out and disrupt deep passes, and swarm to the ball carrier on the ground.

Where McKeesport really struggled besides on offense was special teams. Plum’s first touchdown came after a weak punt that put the Mustangs on the Tiger’s 40 yard line, capped with a beautiful screen from Ryan Hubner to receiver Reed Martin which was taken 10 yards into the endzone after a particularly nasty juke. Their second scoring drive also took advantage of a short field after Plum received the 2nd half kickoff at the McKeesport 44 yard line. Running back Eric Moore, who otherwise had a quiet game in the face of a tough Tigers d-line, took it up the middle and then cut outside for a 10 yard rushing touchdown in what would be the final score of the game for either team.

In the end, a single touchdown by the Tigers, a 1 yard QB sneak by Caleb Reist following a nice 20 yard pickup on the ground by fullback Terrance Glenn, wasn’t even enough points to win in this low scoring game. The Mustangs were able to take advantage of a couple special teams mishaps in order to convert when McKeesport couldn’t. They were able to stretch the field with numerous screens and downfield passes rather than playing into McKeesport’s strength on the defensive front.

Next week Plum will be looking forward to a challenging matchup against Thomas Jefferson, who bounced back this week to dominate Mars. The winner of that game will face the winner of Belle Vernon vs. Aliquippa in the WPIAL championships. The Mustangs need to figure out a lot of things on offense if they are going to beat any of those teams, but we can be sure that their defense, seen all year as dominant, can continue to run with the best in Western PA.

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