Weir stands tall
Red Riders hope to sustain momentum at Plum Senior
WEIRTON — Weir High had a surprisingly easy win last week over Petersburg in a matchup of West Virginia Class AA schools, but a win could be more of a challenge for the Red Riders this week, as they travel to Plum Area High School in the south suburbs of Pittsburgh.
Even though the Mustangs go into the game at 2-4, they play among the Keystone State’s bigger schools in Class 5A, so the Red Riders definitely are jumping up in class.
“That’s the way we want it,” Weir High coach Tony Filberto has said repeatedly. “I firmly believe you can’t improve if you don’t play top competition each week, and I believe our schedule is the toughest in Class AA in West Virginia.”
The Red Riders jumped out to an early lead against the Vikings on Saturday inside Jimmy Carey Stadium thanks to two long touchdown runs by quarterback Sebastian Spencer and a pass to Elijah Gillette in the first quarter. Spencer connected with Gillette in the second period to give Weir High a 27-0 lead at the half.
“We are just now getting some of our injured players healthy and back into games.” Filberto said. “They were out several games, and that slowed us down a bit, especially on defense.”
Seniors Drew Curtis and Jonathan Wetter, who transferred from Iowa, both were out since the second game of the season and returned to at least part-time duties last week. Curtis, who was the starting running back in the opener against Oak Glen, returned to play the entire game at linebacker where he is what Filberto termed the quarterback. Wetter goes both ways at tackle and was a part-timer last week because it was a very warm day game, and he needs to get back into game shape, according to Filberto.
Plum has wins over Highlands, 28-6, in the season opener and Connellsville, 49-14. Its losses are by a 62-40 verdict to McKeesport (Plum scored 20 points in the fourth quarter), 42-14 to Franklin Regional, 44-0 to Gateway and 47-17 to Penn-Trafford last week.
“We have played several big, physical teams in John Marshall, Keyser and Frankfort,” Filberto said. “Out schedule doesn’t get any easier. Plum is big and physical and, don’t forget, they play some big schools in the Pittsburgh area that are pretty good.
“Offensively, they remind me a lot of John Marshall. They are a power football team with two backs running at you. But, then they open it up and pass like everybody does these days.”
Plum got off to a horrible start last week against Penn-Trafford when a Warrior player ran back the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
The Mustang scores in that game came on passes from two different quarterbacks. Sophomore Jake Miller tossed an 11-yard score, while junior Ryan Hubner hit senior Jason Jackson with a 58-yarder on his only aerial of the game. Miller ran with the ball eight times for 53 yards, the longest being 18 yards. Running back Billy Guzzi, a junior, ran the ball for 27 yards on 12 carries.
Filberto said he was pleased that his Red Riders won the special teams battle last week, but added that the Mustangs go into the game with two good kickers. Reed Martin averaged 34.3 yards with four punts last week, and the longest went 45 yards. Martin also kicked a 47-yard field goal.
“Those long kicks will give Sebastian more opportunity to see the field before he decides which way to go on the returns,” Filberto said.
Filberto said the Plum defense also reminds him of John Marshall, a 28-7 victim of the Red Riders in Week 2.
“Plum is big and physical up front with some pretty good linebackers,” he said. “They have nine lettermen returning on both sides of the ball, so they have experienced people. Like John Marshall, they line up defensively according to what they see in the offensive formations. So, we’re going to try to take advantage by trying to formation them into some uncomfortable situations.
“We want to make sure we start fast like we did last week. We had three touchdowns the first three times we touched the football. They will want to come out and keep the ball away from us like Frankfort. So, we’ll have to, perhaps, make some changes on the fly. We can’t let the game get away from us. We’d like to get the early lead and have them chase us, which is out of their comfort zone. Defensively, I think if we play the physical game that we played last week, we’ll be OK.”