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2014 WPIAL Coach of the Year: Matt Morgan, Plum

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There were smiles after a Plum football game late last season, for the first time in more than two years. The Mustangs finally came out on the winning end of a game.

Plum's season-ending 30-22 victory over Greensburg Salem snapped a 25-game losing streak that dated back to early in the 2011 season.

It hardly mattered that the win came against an opponent from a lower classification, on the heels of an 0-8 Quad-A Central Conference record. What mattered was a victory.

Oh how things have changed.

The Mustangs put together a 5-4 season this fall and are preparing for a second-round game against McKeesport in the WPIAL Playoffs after upsetting Penn Hills in the opening round last Friday night. It's taken the Mustangs two years and a lot of hard work -- and plenty of tough losses -- to get to this point.

"I'm so proud of these guys, I'm just speechless," said Plum head coach Mattt Morgan after the playoff win over Penn Hills.

When Morgan took over at his alma mater in February 2013, the former Pitt star brought energy to the program immediately -- but the results took some time.

The Mustangs struggled through a 1-9 season in 2013, finally breaking through with that season-ending win over Greensburg Salem.

But all the hard work and struggles of 2013 paid off in 2014.

The season opened with a rousing 45-19 road win at Hempfield, before suffering a pair of painful losses in front of the home crowd.

First the Mustangs fell behind North Hills 17-0 in their home-opener but rallied to score twice in the fourth quarter before turning the ball over on downs with less than a minute left in a 17-14 loss to the Indians.

One week later, Mustangs quarterback Will Fuhrer was stopped at the goal line on a fourth down to end the first half, only to have Altoona rally for a pair of second half touchdowns to beat Plum 14-11.

Undaunted, Morgan led the Mustangs to three consecutive wins, including a 65-0 torching of Kiski and a 34-7 pasting of Connellsville. Along the way, the Mustangs earned their first playoff berth in four years... which led, of course, to the playoff upset over Penn Hills.

Even in a tight 17-10 loss to undefeated Penn-Trafford in mid-October, it was clear that Morgan had placed the Mustangs back on the WPIAL map.

“We needed a physical game to get ready for the playoffs, and Plum was definitely physical,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said folloPlum's Matt Morganwing his team’s hard-fought late-season win over the Mustangs.

Perhaps even more exciting than postseason football returning to Plum is the energy and enthusiasm that has returned to the program under Morgan’s leadership. His background – four-year letter winner at Pitt, three years in the NFL and five seasons as an assistant at Penn Hills and Gateway – brought immediate legitimacy to the program. Now, after just two seasons, the wins are starting to come as well.

Even in the playoffs.


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