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Big Play Defense Keys Mt. Lebanon Win

by Rick Smith, Nauticom Sports Network

Mt. Lebanon (6-0) used a big play defense and an opportunistic offense to score a convincing 42-21 win over rival Baldwin (5-1) last Friday evening at Mt. Lebanon Stadium. The Blue Devils picked off five passes and fullback Sam Mathews scored five touchdowns to lead the effort. Mt. Lebanon is now all alone in first place in the WPIAL Quad West Conference standings at 4-0. Baldwin drops to 3-1 in the Quad West and is tied for second place with Bethel Park.

Mt. Lebo's Sam Mathews scores one of his five TDs

Mt. Lebanon free safety James Harvey, a 6'2" 180 pound junior, started what would be a very long night for Baldwin quarterback Mike Joyce. Harvey intercepted a Joyce pass and rambled 42 yards to the Baldwin 44 yard line.

Blue Devils quarterback Kevin Weidl then went to work. The 6'1" 180 pound junior completed two fourth down passes during the scoring drive, the second a 29 yarder to Mathews to give Mt. Lebanon a 7-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Weidl completed 5 of 6 passes for 66 yards and a TD on the evening.

Mt. Lebanon senior cornerback Matt Delphus picked off another Joyce pass midway through the second quarter and raced 50 yards down the sideline to the Baldwin 30 yard line. A pass interference call against the Highlanders kept Mt. Lebanon's drive alive and Mathews again took advantage, this time with a 14 yard romp.

Joyce again tossed an interception on the very next play from scrimmage for Baldwin, but this time participation from the Blue Devils offense was not necessary for the score. Brian Young, a 6'1" 175 pound sophomore cornerback, stepped in front of Joyce's pass into the flat and was untouched as he sped 27 yards for the score and a 21-0 halftime lead.

"The interceptions were a big part of the game," said Mt. Lebanon head coach Chris Haering, "We felt like we could control them up front and it would come down to our secondary being able to cover their big play receivers."

On their first possession of the second half, the Blue Devils took advantage of another Baldwin penalty to extend the lead to 28-0. Following a roughing the punter infraction against the Highlanders, Mathews found paydirt for the third time in the game from 11 yards out with 5:55 left in the third quarter.

Baldwin answered quickly with its first score of the game on a 20 yard run by tailback Matt Caponi, a 6'1" 175 senior. The extra point was blocked and the Blue Devils led 28-6. Caponi finished the game with 119 yards on 18 carries. He was named the Nauticom Sports Network's Player of the Game for Baldwin for his efforts.

Baldwin's Matt Caponi on the move

But Mt. Lebanon responded less than three minutes later as, once again, Mathews scored from 9 yards out to make the score 35-6. The Highlanders made the score respectable with two fourth quarter touchdowns. Joyce completed a 14 yard touchdown pass to Jake Godec and also scored on a 1 yard run to cut the deficit to 35-21 with 4:21 left in the game.

But fittingly, it was Mathews, NSN's Player of the Game for Mt. Lebanon, who scored the winning touchdown as he dove over the Baldwin defense and into the endzone from two yards out to make the final score 42-21. The last touchdown was set up by a 50 yard run by senior tailback Chris Fiumara. Fiumara finished the game with 125 yards on 24 carries. Mathews rushed for 75 yards on 14 cariies.

"We're blessed with a couple good backs and a line that knocks people off the ball," said Haering.

Haering was a little surprised when told of Mathews' big performance following the game, "I didn't even know he had that many touchdowns. He's a gamer."

The Baldwin marching band entertains at halftime