ROSTRAVER TOWNSHIP – In a game between top teams in their respective classes Friday night, Class 4A Belle Vernon made a resounding statement by pounding perennial Class 5A powerhouse Penn-Trafford, 27-7.
“This was a complete game,” said BV coach Matt Humbert. “I am happy but the irony is we can’t be too happy and there is a lot of season left.
“It is a little early, and we just have to keep the wheels rolling.”
For the game, BV had 403 yards of total offense on 61 plays, including 308 on the ground. Penn-Trafford finished with 178 yards on 32 plays, and Belle Vernon limited the Warriors to 23 yards on 13 plays in the second half.
Belle Vernon quarterback Devin Whitlock put on a show as he rushed for 209 yards and three scores on 19 carries and threw for 95 yards.
The senior, who at times brings video game-like plays to real life plays, said the Leopards are fueled by doubters.
“I feel like every week, we are almost an underdog every time and I don’t see why,” he said. “It gives us an extra chip to work harder and compete.
“As our coaches say, we have to get better than we were yesterday.”
After forcing the Warriors to punt on the game’s first possession, it did not take long for Whitlock to get the Lepards on the board.
On third-and-three from Belle Vernon’s 25, Whitlock raced 75 yards to give the hosts a 6-0 lead, and Tyler Kovach’s extra point gave the hosts a 7-0 lead with 8:18 to go in the first quarter.
The Warriors countered as they went 80 yards on six plays and tied the score on a 16-yard scoring run by Cade Yaccamelli with 5:55 to go in the first half. That score held into the second quarter.
Whitlock’s gifts were again on display halfway through the second quarter as he returned a punt 82 yards, but Belle Vernon was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty.
Starting at its own 13, Belle Vernon methodically moved to the 50 over eight plays, then Whitlock struck again as he raced 50 yards despite taking several hits on the play.
The last shot he took was within the five-yard line, and he made an acrobatic spin move that saw him use his momentum to backpedal into the end zone.
Belle Vernon led 14-7 with 5:47 to go in the half, and it wasn’t done.
Jake Gedekoh intercepted a Carter Green pass at the Warrior 42.
Seven plays later, Whitlock scored from one yard out on fourth down with two seconds to go in the half to give Belle Vernon a commanding 21-7 lead heading into intermission.
At the half, Whitlock had 169 yards rushing and the three scores while adding 43 in the air.
Belle Vernon gained 250 yards on 33 plays in the first half while Penn-Trafford had 155 yards on 19 plays.
The Warriors attempted an onside kick to open the second half, but Belle Vernon recovered it on the 50 and wasted no time in putting the game away.
Chase Ruokonen closed the scoring on a six-yard end around to make the score 27-7 with 8:39 to go in the third, and Belle Vernon controlled the clock the rest of the way.
Quinton Martin, who battled leg cramps all night, finished with 69 yards rushing for Belle Vernon while Ruokonen and Logan Cunningham joined Gedekoh in the interception column.
Humbert spoke about his team controlling the line of scrimmage which allowed the Leopards to hold the ball for 17:44 in the second half.
“Credit goes to Coaches (Scott) Knee and ((Frank) Mussino as they keep grinding with the guys up front,” Humbert said. “And we can’t underestimate the performance (senior) Cole Weightman has on our offense, especially when he is blocking.
“He also caught three balls, and this was a total team effort.”
As far as the team effort Humbert mentioned, kicker Tyler Kovatch made a touchdown saving tackle on the opening kick when Jacob Otto returned the opening kick 45 yards to the 50.
Had Kovatch not tackled Otto, the Warriors would have had the momentum.
“He is one of those kids that is consistent,” Humbert said of his senior kicker. “He made a big play on the potential return.”
Belle Vernon opens Big Eight Conference play Friday when it heads to West Mifflin and a showdown with Thomas Jefferson looms the following week.
“The kids put themselves in excellent position moving forward with West Mifflin and then the number one team in the state,” Humbert said. “They are number one because of who they are, and we will have our hands full, but all hands are on deck with West Mifflin first.
“That is our focus.”