Field position works for BVA
Field position and mistakes can either kill or carry a football team.
There was no better example Friday than what occurred at James Weir Stadium as Belle Vernon Area played on a short field and capitalized on a number of Uniontown miscues in a 48-20 season-opening win in Big Nine Conference play.
“It's always good to get off to a good start,” BVA coach Aaron Krepps said. “Especially with a conference game right off the start, it's huge.”
BVA got off to a flying start, taking advantage of a botched snap on a punt and setting up at the Red Raiders' 39-yard line. After a holding penalty on the Leps' first play from scrimmage, quarterback Travis Snyder showed why he can be one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and the WPIAL.
Snyder connected with senior receiver Cody Menges on a 36-yard touchdown pass. The pair teamed up twice more, as Snyder went on to throw for five scores, completing 6 of 8 passes for 142 yards.
“He had a decent night,” Krepps said of his junior quarterback. “He had some really nice throws, but we still have a few things to clean up in the passing game. Numbers wise, it looked OK.”
Krepps was more impressed with the play of his defensive line, who he said during camp would be counted on to lead his young team.
Led by seniors Aaron McCullough (two sacks), Austin Fields (two and a half sacks), and Jake Sweitzer (half a sack), Red Raiders quarterback Xavier Ellis and running back Doug Lewis found little room to maneuver.
“They played really well in the first half of the game. We were able to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback and we were able to have success getting through their line,” Krepps said of the unit.
Uniontown coach John Fortugna was disappointed in his team's performance and vowed that it will improve.
“We shot ourselves in the foot. Bad snaps and penalties killed us,” Fortugna said after addressing his team. “It was a snowball effect. Belle Vernon is really sound on defense; they were just bursting through our line. They were hammering our people up front.”
Snyder and Menges had little trouble with the Uniontown secondary, connecting for the second time on a touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter.
After Luke Durigon scored his first career touchdown for the Leopards from two yards out early in the second, BVA recovered a squib kick that led to Menges' third touchdown from Snyder, a 23-yard catch minutes later. Just like that it was 27-0 in favor of the home team.
The teams exchanged possessions and the Red Raiders finally managed a first down with 1:44 left in the first half and made it deep into Leopards' territory, but failed on a fourth down from the 17.
Snyder connected on the first of two touchdowns to Sweitzer, a 31-yard strike, to put the mercy rule into effect with the score 41-0.
Uniontown lit the scoreboard three straight times late in the game with Xavier Ellis finding his brother, Lyric, on a deflected 40-yard touchdown and a Josh Hart 65-yard punt return following a BVA four-and-out.
With the Leopards going to their second- and third-string defense, the Ellis brothers hooked up again from 38 yards out.
Menges answered by returning the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown with just over a minute to close the scoring at 48-20.
For BVA, Menges had three catches for 62 yards.
Krepps and the Leopards will prepare for West Mifflin next week.
“If we can continue to play that way up front, I think we'll be OK,” Krepps said of next week's game. “We have to get our run game cleaned up more, though. I think we missed a couple gaps here and there tonight, but we'll look at it.”
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2667.