WEST MIFFLIN – Matt Humbert should keep a close eye on Devin Whitlock this week.
Don’t let anyone sneeze near him. Don’t let him ride any motorcycles in a thunderstorm or make a misstep getting on and off the school bus.
Because if the Belle Vernon High School football team is going to have any chance at winning WPIAL and PIAA titles, then the Leopards are going to need him at quarterback.
Whitlock scored two first-half touchdowns and Quinton Martin added a fourth-quarter score as Belle Vernon stopped Thomas Jefferson, 21-7, on a frigid Friday night in the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals at West Mifflin High School.
The win sends the Leopards to Heinz Field next Saturday to play either Aliquippa or McKeesport.
“Devin is Devin,” said Humbert, Belle Vernon’s head coach. “But don’t overlook our defense because they were terrific.”
The Leopards, now 11-0, defeated Thomas Jefferson twice in a row for the first time since 1970. Belle Vernon was looking to be the first team to shut out Thomas Jefferson since 1999 but quarterback Joe Lekse scored a meaningless touchdown on a 1-yard dive with just under a minute to go. That drive ate up about seven minutes and used up 17 plays.
Whitlock’s scores came much faster. He broke off right tackle and sped to the end zone from 22 yards out with 4:12 left in the first quarter. His second touchdown came on the same play he ran for a TD that gave Belle Vernon a 28-21 victory over Thomas Jefferson at the midpoint of the season. The only differences were this one went for 79 yards and was run off right tackle instead of left.
“We’re not satisfied at all,” said Whitlock, who has had recruiters from The Citadel and Youngstown State. “We want to play three more games and win them for our seniors, hopefully making it all the way to Hershey and be successful out there. Playing for the WPIAL title means the world to me. Coming up short my past two seasons. ... Just to get there means the world to me.”
Whitlock, a 5-8, 175-pounder, is so fast that some say he can turn out the light in his bedroom and be under the covers before the room gets dark. Whitlock ran for 150 yards and threw for 54 more.
Martin’s touchdown was important but it was his interception in the third quarter at the Belle Vernon five-yard line that he returned to midfield was the backbreaker for Thomas Jefferson.
“We have unfinished business. I don’t want to be a Debby-downer but we tried not to build up the whole Belle Vernon-TJ thing because the fans will do that,” Humbert said. “We didn’t focus too much on who we were playing. We tried to get them focused on going to Heinz Field not TJ. We just focused on clawing and scrapping to get back to that stadium. I’m proud of the kids because that’s not an easy team to beat.”
Lekse averages five yards per carry coming into the game. Belle Vernon held him to a little more than one yard per carry in this win.
“They just made more plays than we did,” said Thomas Jefferson head coach Bill Cherpak. “I thought our defense played well. We contained Whitlock and held him to that one big run. They played hard and were hungry and had that desperation inside them. They deserved to win. We were in the red zone and turned the ball over on downs and had that interception. They just deserved it more than we did.”