East Xtra: Plum halts conference win drought

Brad Everett's High School Football Notebook

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For the first time in quite a while, Plum felt peachy after playing a conference game.

In one of the biggest surprises of the opening weekend, Plum went on the road and handily defeated Hempfield Area, 45-19, in a Class AAAA Foothills Conference game. It was Plum's first conference win since 2011. In between, the Mustangs had dropped 22 consecutive conference games, those all coming in the Southeastern and Big East Conferences.

"It was a huge win for us because it was one of the steps that had to be taken," Plum's second-year coach Matt Morgan said. "We wanted to win last year, but it was still a feeling out process. This is enormous for the community.

"But as coaches, we expect this from the kids. There's a lot of satisfaction to see the kids on the right end of a big victory, as opposed to being on the other side. To me, it's a huge step for the program, but we have to focus on the next game."

Snapping the skid against Hempfield was unexpected. The Spartans qualified for the postseason the past two years, and are expected to push for another playoff berth this season. Plum, meanwhile, went 2-26 the past three seasons, including 1-9 last season.

Sophomore running back Nick Coxon played a large role in the win. Coxon rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns and was on the receiving end of William Fuhrer's touchdown pass.

"[Coxon] is a pretty dynamic kid," Morgan said. "He can do it all out of the backfield. He can play wide receiver if we need him to. He's young, but he played as a freshman. We expect big things from him. He has all the tools."

Plum's scoring output was its biggest in more than a decade. The Mustangs scored 56 points all of last season, but more than half of them came in a season-ending 30-22 win at Greensburg Salem. No Class AAAA team and only one WPIAL team scored fewer points than Plum.

The Mustangs play host to North Hills (1-0) in a non-conference game Friday.

McKeesport back breaks out

Khaleke Hudson rushed for 191 yards a season ago.

It took Hudson just one game this season to nearly double that number.

Hudson, a fullback/wingback in McKeesport's flexbone offense, ran for 346 yards and five touchdowns in leading the Tigers to a 36-7 win against visiting Connellsville last Friday. No WPIAL player rushed for more yards in Week 1 than Hudson, who did his damage on just 16 carries. That's an average of 21.6 yards per carry. Three of his scoring runs went for more than 50 yards.

"I feel that I had to do whatever I could to help the team win," Hudson said. "It was a good feeling out there knowing my performance was good, but all that matters is the 'W.'"

Hudson (6 feet, 202 pounds) is one of the most highly recruited juniors in the WPIAL. Schools are recruiting him as a safety, but Hudson believes interest in him as a running back could be picking up soon. Pitt and West Virginia are among the schools to offer him thus far. Hudson said Penn State, however, is his favorite. Penn State has not offered, but Hudson expects that to happen soon.

Hudson will go head-to-head with a Pitt recruit when Mc-Keesport travels to take on Altoona in a Class AAAA Foothills Conference game Friday. Altoona features senior fullback/linebacker Kevin Givens.

Just for kicks

Three kickers gave their teams impressive, opening-week victories last Friday after booting winning field goals -- two in overtime and the other in the final seconds of regulation.

Greensburg Salem's Ryan Collette made a 21-yard field goal to help the Golden Lions stun host Gateway, 9-6, in overtime. Valley's Rory Baker converted an 18-yard attempt in overtime to give the Vikings a 3-0 win against visiting Burrell. Greensburg Central Catholic's Brian Pevarnik nailed a 26-yarder with 1.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter to push the host Centurions past Monessen, 15-12.

Collette and Baker also are standout soccer players.

The kicks made for a devastating loss and heart-thumping win for two coaches who were coaching their first game at their respective schools, Gateway's Tom Nola and Valley's Muzzy Colosimo.

Gateway, which went 8-3 last season, dropped its third season opener in eight years, but the other two had come on the road against non-WPIAL opponents -- Ohio power Cardinal Mooney in 2007 and Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt in 2010. Greensburg Salem had won only five games over the past two seasons.

Greensburg Central Catholic, which dropped from Class AA, was playing its first game as a member of Class A since 2001.

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