Linhart, Plum offense shine in Week Zero win over Highlands
Turnover chain, touchdown chain or just call it the “big game chain,” nevertheless, Plum’s Hunter Linhart walked off the field Friday night with a huge piece of jewelry hanging from around his neck.
The shiny gold plastic chain with a large purple horseshoe hanging from it was indicative of the kind of game the senior quarterback had as he was throwing ringers all night long.
Linhart put up a career-high 299 yards passing, threw for three touchdowns, and ran for one another, to lead his Mustangs past Highlands, 32-14, in a Week Zero nonconference matchup Friday night at Plum Mustangs Stadium.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Plum coach Matt Morgan. “We’re such a young team. I thought our young guys responded well, and there’s still a lot of unnecessary stuff we need to clean up.”
With all the success and types of numbers Highlands rung up last season, no one would have thought the Plum (1-0) offense would look more like high-flying Highlands (0-1) than the Rams themselves.
The Mustangs came right out and put together a seven-play, 70-yard drive that was capped off by a 1-yard run by Linhart to give the Mustangs a lead they would never surrender.
“I’ve been talking about (Linhart) all summer,” Morgan said. “He’s taken control of this thing, and we got him comfortable early and he started slinging it.”
Slinging it is an understatement. Linhart carved up the Highlands secondary in the first half. On Plum’s second possession, Linhart spotted a wide open Maximos Matolcsy for a 44-yard touchdown pass to give the Mustangs a 12-0 lead after two blocked extra-point attempts by the Rams special teams. Matolcsy also had a career night, finishing with 193 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions.
“It’s great and I think I had more passing yards today than I had all last season,” Linhart said. “From my line giving me the time to see and make the passes (to) my receivers making the catches, it’s great to see the young guys stepping up.”
The Rams did manage to get on the board late in the first quarter when senior running back Gabe Booker scored on a 4-yard run to cut into Plum’s lead at 12-7, after the Jaci Bowser extra-point attempt.
“You got to give them credit,” Highlands coach Dom Girardi said. “They came out and their quarterback threw some really nice balls. I like what we did up front, and it’s just hard to come back from that, especially when you’re young.”
Seth Cohen’s senior season got off to a rocky start. The Highlands quarterback was intercepted on his first throw by Plum’s Nicolas Sluka. Sluka got a hold of another Cohen pass to finish the night with two. The Rams’ passing game showed flashes of last season, but passes were either dropped or not on target. Cohen finished 8 of 23 for 99 yards.
“We wanted to win, but we’ll take the lesson and move forward,” Girardi said.
There was no room to run in the Highlands running game either. The Rams’ 5-foot-10, 235-pound bruiser Cam Taylor was repeatedly bottled up and stopped at the line for little gain. Booker led Highlands with 88 yards on 12 carries. Booker went on to score his second touchdown on a 26-yard run midway through the third quarter.
With 1 minute, 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Taylor went down with a neck injury and had to be carted off the field. Girardi said Taylor should be fine and that the stretcher was for precautionary reasons.
Sophomore running back Preston Sunday rounded out the Mustangs’ scoring with a 1-yard run to put the game away.
“It was great to see,” Morgan said. “It was like semi-midseason form, and the guys did really good for us.”