East Xtra: Plum coach has a lot to sell

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Since seeing his NFL career end in 2007, Plum High School graduate Matt Morgan has worked as a sales representative for a fitness equipment company.

Morgan is now trying to sell his football knowledge and work ethic to students at his alma mater in hopes of reviving what is one of most struggling programs in the WPIAL.

Morgan, a 1999 graduate, was hired by the school as its new head coach Feb. 26.

"It's nice to be back home finally," said Morgan, who lives just a few minutes from the high school. "It's nice to get back to my community. I want to see the team turn itself around. I always wanted to come back to Plum eventually."

After a fine collegiate career at Pitt, Morgan, an offensive lineman, played three seasons in the NFL -- two with St. Louis and one with Buffalo.

Morgan had been an assistant at the high school level the past five years. He spent two years at Penn Hills and was at Gateway the past three.

He succeeds Frank Sacco, who coached Plum the past four seasons.

Morgan faces a major rebuilding job. Plum, which plays in the WPIAL's ultra-competitive Class AAAA Southeastern Conference, has not won a game in nearly two years. The Mustangs will enter the season on a 16-game losing streak. Their previous win came against Kittanning in the second game of the 2011 season. A season ago, the Mustangs scored only 69 points and lost all but one of their games by at least 28 points.

To help build a winning tradition, Morgan has brought along some other former assistants at Gateway, which has established itself as one of the top programs in the WPIAL. Among them are offensive coordinator Loran Cooley and defensive coordinator Mike Barlak. Many of the Gateway assistants left after longtime head coach Terry Smith resigned to accept an assistant coaching job at Temple University in January.

"The first move was to get some good, quality guys to help me out," Morgan said. "We've tried to mimic some of the things we did at Penn Hills and Gateway. We've tried to mimic a lot of the things Terry did in the offseason. We got a weight program intact and then a summer program. We've gotten some good participation."

Morgan said he is implementing a system that is similar to what was run at Gateway, minus the services of the typically plentiful number of Division I recruits.

Morgan said he applied for the Plum job extremely late in the hiring process. He said he had a lot of loyalty toward Smith and wanted to wait to see if Smith would leave Gateway before he applied for the Plum position. When Smith accepted the Temple job, Morgan quickly moved on, applying at Plum. Morgan said it was two days before the application cut-off date.

"My mind was already made up, but once he left, that's when I decided to definitely do it," Morgan said.

Since being hired by an 8-0 vote by the Plum school board, Morgan said the support he has received from the community has been very positive.

"After I got the phone call from the board meeting, my phone was going non-stop for like two hours," he said. "I couldn't believe how many people were interested in me getting the job. It was like I hit the lottery."

Plum isn't far removed from being a winner.

The Mustangs made consecutive WPIAL playoff appearances in 2009 and 2010.

Morgan, though, wants the Mustangs to become a consistent winner and would like it to happen sooner than most think is possible.

"Coming from two very successful programs, I obviously have very high expectations," he said.

"That's how I approach football. Even for a team that hasn't won a game in two seasons, I still have high expectations. We want to be competitive and be physical and learn how to win."



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