When the WPIAL Class AAAA playoff pairings were announced Oct. 27 and McKeesport coach George Smith saw his Tigers and Plum were slotted in the bracket, he said he gave a quick thought to a potential quarterfinal matchup between the teams and a rematch of a rugged Quad East clash from Oct. 10.
Late Friday evening, after No. 5 McKeesport took care of business against No. 12 Mt. Lebanon, 35-10, and No. 13 Plum took out No. 4 Penn Hills, 17-6, the potential rematch became a reality. Friday’s quarterfinal game is set for 7:30 p.m. at Norwin.
McKeesport is hoping for a repeat of a 20-3 victory in last month’s conference battle, and Plum wants to punch its ticket to the WPIAL semifinals for the first time since 1996.
“We knew that (Plum) could beat Penn Hills,” Smith said. “You can’t underestimate them. They can beat anybody. This is a new Plum team that gets after it and plays hard-nosed football. We saw that in the first game.”
McKeesport (9-1) has won seven games in a row since a 28-0 loss to Penn-Trafford in Week 3.
Plum is gunning for its third straight victory after back-to-back losses to the Tigers and No. 2 seed Penn-Trafford.
McKeesport holds a 17-4 all-time advantage in the series, and including October’s win, it has captured the past seven meetings.
The Mustangs’ win last Friday snapped a nine-game playoff losing streak.
“We had been competitive against the best teams on our schedule, and against Penn Hills, it was time to take the next step. They did that,” Plum coach Matt Morgan said. “We have to be ready again this week. McKeesport has a good, fast defense that can hit you. We’ve been working on being an assignment-sound defense, and we did that well against Penn Hills that throws a lot at you (in the running game). We have to do even better this week because McKeesport is even better at doing those things like the options and quick runs to the outside (in the flexbone).”
In the first game, Plum held a 3-0 lead at halftime, but a Mustangs’ fumble on the second play of the second half — created by junior linebacker Tymar Sutton’s crushing hit on Mustangs running back Kevin Brown — set up the McKeesport offense with a short field.
On the next play, senior quarterback TyWann Smith connected with junior Khaleke Hudson for a 24-yard score and a 7-3 lead.
It turned out to be enough for the Tigers’ defense which held Plum to 11 total yards and three first downs, including minus-9 yards and one first down in the second half.
“Plum had other opportunities to score in the first half, but our defense held strong,” Coach Smith said. “Our defense played really well in that game.”
Hudson did a little bit of everything against Plum in the first meeting. He rushed for 115 yards, caught two touchdown passes and threw a 40-yard completion on a halfback pass.
Plum seniors Zach Martin and Andrew Soxman combined for 133 of the team’s 156 rushing yards Friday against Penn Hills.
“We’re very close,” Coach Smith said. “If the breaks go their way with the talent they have, they can win. If we stay on task with what we want to do and can get a few breaks, we can be the victor.”
Michael Love is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].