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West Mifflin defense shuts down Belle Vernon

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 11:45 p.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
West Mifflin running back James Wheeler runs down the sideline ahead of Belle Vernon's Cameron Quinto for a third-quarter touchdown on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at West Mifflin.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
West Mifflin wide receiver Kevin Garbark hauls in a pass for a touchdown over Belle Vernon's Cameron Quinto in the third quarter to break a 6-6 tie Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at West Mifflin.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo watches game action against Belle Vernon on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at West Mifflin.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Belle Vernon running back Luke Durigon finds a hole through the West Mifflin defense for short yardage on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at West Mifflin.

West Mifflin star Jimmy Wheeler ran for 189 yards and three touchdowns Friday.

He wasn't really the story, though. On a night when Wheeler was shut down most of the game, the Titans defense kept it even until a couple of other West Mifflin standouts provided big plays in a 41-6 victory over Belle Vernon.

“Jimmy is who makes us go,” West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo said. “There's no doubt about that. But it was nice to see some other people make big plays.”

The final score was in no way indicative of how the game was played. In fact, Belle Vernon had the better of the play during the first half, which ended tied, 6-6.

Wheeler rushed for 40 yards on nine carries on the opening touchdown drive but was silent for a long stretch. He produced 11 yards on his next 11 carries, giving Belle Vernon ample opportunity to take the lead in the second and third quarters.

“Our defense was really, really good in the first half,” Belle Vernon coach Aaron Krepps said. “Wheeler is a very explosive tailback. Our game plan was to stop him, and for most of the game, we really did.”

Belle Vernon also stopped itself.

Quarterback Travis Snyder, who threw five touchdown passes one week earlier, missed a number of open receivers in the first half and threw two crucial interceptions while the game was still tight. The Leopards also had a difficult time protecting their quarterback, who was sacked four times, including twice on fourth down.

“We just didn't execute the way we needed to,” Krepps said. “We obviously had our chances because of the way our defense was playing.”

The Belle Vernon defense, however, couldn't contain the Titans for the entire game. Midway through the third, the Leps fell apart.

West Mifflin quarterback Karlyn Garner only completed one pass, but it was a big one. On third-and-long with the game tied, 6-6, Garner threw a bomb down the middle of the field that hit receiver Kevin Garbark in stride. The 58-yard touchdown strike deflated Belle Vernon.

“We never recovered,” Krepps said.

West Mifflin recovered a fumble moments later, and Wheeler put the game away with a 59-yard scamper. He added a 16-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

“We kept at it,” Braszo said. “We made some adjustments at halftime, and we got Jimmy to the outside more in the second half.”

Garbark added a 38-yard touchdown against a clearly fatigued Belle Vernon defense in the fourth. DiAngelo Mitchell finished it with a 12-yard touchdown run.

“They're just a very good team,” Krepps said. “If you want to beat a team like that, you can't beat yourself, and we did in a lot of different ways.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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