Belle Vernon bolts to big lead, routs Laurel Highlands
Facing a must-win game Friday night on Senior Night at James Weir Stadium, Belle Vernon responded with a 44-6 win over Laurel Highlands.
And thanks to Trinity's loss to West Mifflin, the Leopards' postseason hopes in the Big 9 Conference remain alive.
“We did what we had to do and we are focused on that,” coach Aaron Krepps said. “We can't worry about what anyone else does.
“All we can do is take care of our business and we did that tonight.”
Belle Vernon can still make the playoffs if it wins at Albert Gallatin and Trinity loses to Ringgold.
The Leps (3-5, 3-4) started quickly, going 57 yards on six plays, all rushes, to take a 7-0 lead just 2:51 into the game.
Belle Vernon then recovered a fumble on the first Laurel Highlands play and returned it for a touchdown to make it 14-0.
On the play, Jimmy Pierce hit Joe Pegg with a bubble screen pass, but Pegg bobbled it and thought it was an incomplete.
However, it was ruled a lateral and Jeremy Indof picked up the loose ball and raced 28 yards for the touchdown.
Two plays later, Brandon Williams of Laurel Highlands (1-7, 1-6) fumbled on a rush attempt and Manack scooped it up and raced 18 yards for the third Belle Vernon score in under four minutes.
Tyler McCullough's extra point made it 21-0 with 8:03 to go in the first quarter.
Krepps said the quick lead helped relax sophomore quarterback Jake Gherardini, who was making his first varsity start for injured classmate Travis Snyder.
“Jake, for a first-time starter, what can you say,” Krepps said. “He played lights out. It was beneficial with the two quick defensive scores and they set the tempo.”
Gherardini finished 7 of 9 for 196 yards, all in the first half. Belle Vernon led 37-0 at halftime, on Cody Menges' 20-yard touchdown reception with 1:09 to play in the first half.
Belle Vernon sophomore running back Anthony Levis ran for 154 yards on 16 carries, as the Leopards amassed 318 rushing yards on 41 attempts.
Despite the loss, LH coach Zach Just was upbeat.
“We had a good week of preparation and practice,” he said. “To see us in practice this week you would not know that we had no playoff berth at stake. Belle Vernon is a good team but we have been making the same mistakes all year and you can't get away with that against a good team.”
Belle Vernon's Adam Ferita, one of the seniors honored before the game, relished his final home game and looks ahead to next week against Albert Gallatin.
“Playing on this field for the last time was special and we got the win,” Ferita said. “Hopefully, Ringgold can beat Trinity, but we have to do our job or that score doesn't matter.”
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.