Backup QB, defense direct McKeesport past Plum
McKeesport coach George Smith had his relievers warming up in the bullpen Friday night.
With starting quarterback TyWann Smith shaken up and out of the lineup and backup Tymar Sutton battling cramping in the second half, Smith started looking down his bench for candidates to run the Tigers’ complicated flexbone offense.
Turns out Sutton did just fine in No. 5 McKeesport’s 20-5 victory over No. 13 Plum in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game at Norwin that saw both teams lose players to injuries.
Smith was forced to the bench for the remainder of the game with what was believed to be a bruised pectoral muscle.
“He took some hard hits out there,” George Smith said. “We’ll have to see how he responds after he gets looked at (Saturday). It’s one of those things where we’re just not sure where to pinpoint it.”
McKeesport (10-1) also lost center Luke Eckels to a knee injury.
Plum (6-5), coming off a 17-6 first-round upset of No. 4 Penn Hills, came away from the loss decimated by injuries as well.
Coach Matt Morgan said the Mustangs lost at least five players during the game, including running back Andrew Soxman (groin) and tight end Zach Nolan (concussion).
“Everybody was going down left and right,” Morgan said. “It was a hard-hitting game. They’re limping around over there, too.”
Sutton relieved Tywann Smith in the second quarter and rushed for 155 yards with two long touchdowns as McKeesport held off Plum for the second time this year.
The Tigers defeated the Mustangs, 20-3, during the regular season.
“This one hurts worse,” Morgan said.
McKeesport moved on to face top-seeded Pine-Richland (11-0) in the semifinals.
Sutton scored on runs of 34 and 27 yards to give McKeesport a 20-3 advantage after the Tigers clung to a 13-3 lead at halftime.
TyWann Smith put McKeesport ahead 7-3 with a 61-yard touchdown run on the first play after Plum had gone in front 3-0 on Jacob Chapla’s 35-yard field goal.
The McKeesport defense smothered Plum’s running game, though the Mustangs managed a third-quarter safety after the Tigers’ Tyron Bynum stopped a Plum drive at the McKeesport 9 with his second interception of the game.
Bynum was the catalyst at linebacker for a McKeesport defense that limited Plum to 32 yards rushing and 129 total yards.
“He was awesome. He was all over the field,” George Smith said. “He’s really been playing well for us down the stretch.”
The coach continued to be frustrated by McKeesport’s sputtering offense.
The Tigers fumbled three times in the first half before another turnover led to Plum’s safety.
“We did some decent things,” he said, “but we continue to make too many errors.”
McKeesport returns to the semifinals for the first time since losing to Bethel Park, 20-13, in 2008.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.