Plum uses turnovers to sneak past North Hills
Plum continued to build Quad-A momentum with a tight 10-7 victory over turnover-prone North Hills at Martorelli Stadium on Friday.
The Mustangs (2-0) combined Kevin Brown’s 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Jacob Chapla’s 34-yard field goal with six Indian turnovers to improve to 2-0 for the first time in five seasons.
A game that featured two strong defensive performances was tipped in favor of Plum due a number of costly North Hills mistakes. The Mustangs won despite not recording an offensive touchdown and being outgained by North Hills, 188-170.
“We struggled on offense but were lights out defensively,” Plum coach Matt Morgan said. “To be what we want to be, we have to be a heck of a lot more consistent.”
Perhaps the Indians realized they were in for a long evening when do-it-all junior Nick Santucci opened the game with a 72-yard kickoff return that ended in a lost fumble.
North Hills (1-1) overcame that early miscue to take a 7-0 lead on Santucci’s 3-yard touchdown run but the lead did not last as Brown returned the ensuing kick 90 yards for a score.
“The kickoff return was humongous,” North Hills coach Pat Carey said, “but anytime you lose the turnover battle 6-0, you are going to lose the game. I thought we played well enough on defense to win.”
Plum took a 10-7 lead before the half on Chapla’s 34-yard field goal. The senior atoned for an earlier miss by kicking the game’s deciding points. He also had a field-goal attempt blocked in the fourth quarter.
Both teams struggled to mount drives in the second half, but Plum succeeded in doing something North Hills could not: holding on to the football.
Three Indians interceptions and two fumbles later, the Mustangs were off to their best start since 2010.
Two years after Plum finished 1-9, Morgan has the Mustangs trending upwards. Plum, which capped a five-win regular season with a first-round upset of Penn Hills in last year’s WPIAL playoffs, beat Hempfield last week, 38-17.
“When I first got this job, we had a big cloud over this program,” Morgan said. “I came back for the kids. Plum finally knows how to win.”
Santucci finished with 230 all-purpose yards, including 119 on returns. Jake Elsayed completed 11 of 17 passes for 104 yards for the Indians but the senior also threw two interceptions, including one on the final play to Plum’s Nick Carlisano.