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CoGo's High School Football Feature Matchup: Derry at Mt. Pleasant

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The Mount Pleasant Vikings (1-0) will host Interstate Conference rival Derry (0-1) this Friday in their 2015 home opener.

The Mount Pleasant football program doesn’t need to be reminded of the importance of finishing. The team has reached the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Double-A playoffs in each of the past two seasons before failing to advance any further.

Last week, the Vikings finished in a big way in a 30-23 overtime victory over McGuffey. After blocking a field goal at the end of regulation to force overtime, junior running back Chris Wagner scored his third touchdown of the game from three yards out to clinch the single-overtime victory.  

“It was just a great high school football game,” head coach Bo Ruffner said. “Both teams made mistakes but that’s expected in the first game.”

In recent years, Mount Pleasant has had no trouble producing on offense, having averaged 32 points per game last season and 42 in 2013. Entering 2015, however, the team needed to fill voids left by their now-graduated leading receiver, L.J. Sutton, and leading rusher, Trevor Salopek.

“Every year is like that for us. It’s really nothing new,” Ruffner said about the annual roster shakeups.  “Every year we’re replacing our leading rusher and receiver… we just always expect the next person to be able to step up.”

Friday’s win was Ruffner’s first chance to evaluate the team’s next wave of skill position players, the most impressive of whom was Wagner.   

One year after Salopek ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns against McGuffey in the team’s opener, Wagner nearly matched his production with 144 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries.

Wagner will look to similarly stuff the stat sheet this week against a Derry defense that allowed 48 points to Washington High School en route to getting shutout 48-0. 

Wagner’s backfield companion, junior quarterback Johnny Yester, has already started to display increased leadership in his second season behind center, Ruffner said.

The coaching staff depends on Yester more to make good pre- and post-snap decisions in the Vikings’ run option offense, Ruffner said.

Looking ahead to Derry, Ruffner expects the game to be won where most high school football games are won in western Pennsylvania – the trenches.

“You got to be able to run the ball and stop the run,” he said. 

One of Mount Pleasant’s team strengths lies along their offensive line, led by starting center Zack Klejka.

Ruffner added that he expects no letdown after his team’s exhilarating win and Derry’s overwhelming loss last week. 

“You only get nine of these regular season games every year,” Ruffner said.  “It’s an old rivalry game… I expect both teams to compete very hard.” 

Mount Pleasant senior student-athlete Madison Kromer will be honored before the game with the CoGo’s High School Sports Unsung Hero Award.

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