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Belle Vernon improves to 6-0, blanks Trinity in soccer showdown

BELLE VERNON – Niko Apodiakos scored twice and T.J. Watson made six saves to pace Belle Vernon to a 3-0 shutout over Trinity Tuesday night in a Section 3-AAA boys soccer showdown.

“I feel that we have been sitting in and defending before taking advantage of our opportunities,” Belle Vernon coach Rob Miele said. “We scored on a (penalty kick), we scored on a corner and we competed for that first goal.

“This team is comfortable waiting out and seeing, and considering how young we are, I give the team props.”

Trinity coach Ryan Julian was disappointed with the outcome.

“We had possession (early) and their keeper made some key saves,” he said. “But I am real proud of the guys for playing until the last whistle.”

Trinity (1-1, 2-2) controlled play early and had the first solid scoring opportunity in the match.

With 19:39 to play in the first half, Elijah Cinncinati drilled a shot toward Watson, but the junior goalkeeper punched the ball above the goalie’s box and out of play.

“Elijah made a heck of a one-touch flick on it and their keeper made a heck of a play on it,” Julian said.

Miele knows Watson’s shot was the key point.

“That save was huge because if we go down 1-0, that changes the whole game,” Miele said. “I thought we defended corners real well tonight and the defense stepped up.”

Watson said it was a difficult save to make.

“It was a good shot that deflected off,” he said. “Elijah is a real good player and got a good shot off but I was fortunate to make a play on it.”

The Leopards (3-0, 6-0) opened the scoring when Niko Apodiakos played a loose ball in front of the net and scored to give Belle Vernon a 1-0 lead with 17:02 to go in the first half.

“That was the kind of goal we needed,” Miele said. “We have gotten them in timely situations so far this season.”

With 12:11 to go in the first half, Belle Vernon was awarded a penalty kick and Apodiakos buried the shot.

The Leopards extended their lead to 3-0 with 8:42 to play in the half to close the scoring when Tyler Kovatch scored off of a corner kick from Sam Desai.

Belle Vernon played an even more patient style in the second half.

“We flipped out guys and went with two holders and sat in and defended,” Miele said.

Watson credited the defense in front of him.

“The defense played really good and played lockdown defense,” Watson said. “We were patient.”

Colby White made six saves for Trinity.

“He is a great keeper,” Julian said of White.

Belle Vernon, which started nine underclassmen, set a program record with its sixth straight win to start the season.

Miele said the feat was not discussed prior to Tuesday.

“It wasn’t a goal that we talked about,” he said. “But these guys needed to realize that it was something out there for them to accomplish and we will enjoy it tonight but have to get ready for a tough match on Thursday.

“People thought we would rebuild this year and that motivated the guys.”

Julian is confident his team will bounce back.

“We have to talk to the team about not giving up flurries of goals,” he said. “It is something that we have done in the past. So if we do let one in, which probably won’t be very often, we just can’t more go after that.”

Narduzzi enjoys talking about ‘big game’

PITTSBURGH – Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi has never made any secret of the fact he thinks the Panthers should play Penn State every year, but he knows it could be a long while before the teams meet again after Saturday.

“I’m going to emphasize to our kids, ‘You might be the last team to ever get to play this game.’ It might be,” Narduzzi said. “I don’t know if it’ll be played. I’m either going to be in a coffin or retired probably, so I don’t know which one it’ll be.”

The Nittany Lions and Panthers are playing for the fourth year in a row, and Saturday’s meeting will mark the 100th game of the series.

Narduzzi again reiterated his desire to keep the series going, even though for now it appears the teams won’t meet again until at least 2030.

“Of course we all want to play this game,” Narduzzi said. “We’re going to jump on the bus on Friday, it’s close enough to get on a bus. We don’t have to go wait at an airport, don’t have to go through customs, we don’t have to do anything. We don’t have to empty our pockets. We jump on a bus and we go. So we certainly want to play that game. And it’s a big game. It’s another game for us, but it’s a big game because it’s a rivalry game, in state.”

Penn State coach James Franklin has always refused to call this a big game. Franklin said he treats every game the same and preaches that to his players.

Narduzzi, though, has never shied away from mentioning this is a big game. He even has taken the step over the years – and is doing so again this week – of not letting his players talk to the media before the game.

The coach pointed out he hopes his players prepare a little differently the week of the Penn State game, knowing it is in fact a big one.

Franklin has never, and probably will never say such a thing publicly.

Narduzzi said he has a good relationship with Franklin.

“We vacation together,” Narduzzi said. “We do. James is a great guy. We go on the Nike trip every year, and I would call that a vacation, so we do vacation and socialize. But when it’s game day, it’s game week. It’s game week, it’s game week.”

Since Penn State and Pitt won’t be playing again any time soon after this weekend, Narduzzi said he would like to get some of the Panthers’ traditional rivals on the schedule.

“West Virginia is coming back,” he said. “And then Syracuse is our rival. I mean, that’s an old Big East rival, as we know. It’s been a terrific game every year. It’s a talented football team.

“We’re talking about it’s Penn State week. But we have rivalry games. We’ll make one. We’ll make one if we have to. Shoot, we made one back in the day when I was at Cincinnati. The River City Rivalry, wasn’t that what it was called, something like the River City Rivalry? We’ll make one up. We’ll get a trophy made.”

Steelers fullback Nix dealing with knee injury

PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely be without fullback and special teams captain Rosie Nix for Sunday’s visit by Seattle.

Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Nix is dealing with a knee injury sustained in a 33-3 loss to New England in the opener. Nix did not play an offensive snap against the Patriots and the Steelers struggled to convert a series of short-yardage situations in the second and third quarters while getting blown out on the road, though Tomlin downplayed Nix’s absence as a factor.

Safety Sean Davis (ankle) could return to face the Seahawks after sitting out Week 1. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (ankle), center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), linebacker T.J. Watt (hip) and cornerback Joe Haden (shoulder) could all be limited in practice during the week but Tomlin said he is optimistic all four will be able to go against Seattle.

Pittsburgh has started 0-2 just once in Tomlin’s 12-year career. The Steelers dropped their first four games in 2013, but rallied to finish 8-8.

A day after trading third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs to Jacksonville, Pittsburgh signed quarterback Devlin Hodges to the practice squad. Hodges played well during training camp and the preseason for the Steelers before being cut.

Antonio Brown accused of rape by former trainer

New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown has been accused of rape by a former trainer.

Britney Taylor says Brown sexually assaulted her on three occasions, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Southern District of Florida.

Brown has denied the allegations. Darren Heitner, a lawyer representing Brown, says it was “a consensual personal relationship.”

The New York Times first reported about the lawsuit.

Messages were left seeking comment from the Patriots and the NFL.

Brown was released by the Oakland Raiders last week after clashing with the team throughout training camp.

He agreed to a contract with New England on Saturday, but has yet to play for the Patriots.


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Patriots coaches mum on plans for Brown this week vs. Miami

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Bill Belichick isn’t concerned about Antonio Brown’s past.

He’s even less concerned about anyone outside the Patriots organization who questions whether Brown can fit into New England’s system without being disruptive.

That’s because he remembers hearing similar sentiments about another outspoken receiver he traded for more than a decade ago.

“It’s the same thing you said about Randy Moss when we brought him in,” Belichick said Tuesday.

Moss, who clashed with the coaching staffs in both Minnesota and Oakland before being shipped to New England in 2007, flourished with the Patriots. Moss, who was Tom Brady’s chief deep threat that season, had a career-high 23 touchdown receptions and 1,493 receiving yards on his way to earning All-Pro honors for the fourth and final time in his career.

Brown is coming off his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season, but has yet to be on a Super Bowl-winning team.

How much the Patriots plan to use him this week when they visit division foe Miami remains to be seen.

“We think he’ll help our team, but until we start working with him ... and see exactly how everything fits together and what we can develop we’ll just have to see how that goes,” Belichick said.

While New England’s players have yet to practice this week and officially had Tuesday off, Belichick said they were “going through information with (Brown) like we would any new player.”

A big part of that acclimation process will be spending time with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who like Belichick, has witnessed Brown’s ability to exploit defenses as a member of the Steelers.

But McDaniels was adamant that he won’t change anything about his play-calling approach this week just to get Brown involved.

“We’ll see how it goes as we go forward, but certainly we’ve always had the same concept in terms of our run game, pass game, our offense in general,” McDaniels said.

“We’re going to try to throw it where we’re supposed to throw it and we don’t try to force the ball anywhere or to anybody because that’s not necessarily the way we do it.”

Brady said earlier this week that while they were “all excited to have him,” Brown’s late arrival does give him the same challenge that receivers Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett faced when they joined the team.

“I think everybody’s excited to add great players. It helps everybody when you have great players that are sharing the burden of a tough football season,” Brady said. “But, we haven’t had a training camp together ... so you’ve got to force a lot of information.

“All I could say is we’re just going to work as hard as we possibly can to get up to speed as quickly as possible.”