High school notebook: Highlands' Martin harbors unique pet

| Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, 9:42 p.m.

While his teammates have traditional pets such as dogs, cats or fish, Highlands junior football player Levontae Martin has a more exotic choice of companion.

Martin calls a 4-foot-long, 2-year-old alligator named “King” his friend. He lets the creature roam free in his house.

And Highlands coach Sam Albert thought training camp was a zoo.

“It's crazy,” Albert said. “This thing lives in his living room. In a plastic swimming pool. He lets it walk around. He showed us video. It eats mice. We didn't really need to see that part, but it eats mice.”

Teammates have visited Martin's home just to see the gator. Most are apprehensive, but some are courageous enough to pick it up, even pet it.

Martin said King doesn't attack, but his friends are sure to keep their shoes on when they're around him, even if he's in his kiddie pool.

“I have a dog. It's little,” sophomore running back Dom Martinka said. “I'd be scared that thing would eat it.”

The family basically treats King like a dog.

“If he gets out, we just grab him and put him back,” Martin said. “It's not mean or anything.”

Martin (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) said he obtained the gator through a pet store nurturing program.

“Once it gets to be 5 or 6 feet long, I have to give it back to them, and they'll give it to a zoo,” said Martin, a transfer from McKeesport who is slated to play tight end this season as Highlands makes its debut in Class AA.

“We've had snakes and reptiles for a while. It's not a big deal to us. We've had a couple (alligators) before. They eat rats, mice, goldfish, that kind of thing.”

Shannon to Allegheny

Freeport baseball standout Noah Shannon has committed to play at Allegheny College. An outfielder, Shannon hit .468 with a team-best 20 runs scored and 21 RBIs last season and was a WPIAL All-Star.

Soccer at A-R

Apollo-Ridge approved girls soccer as a club sport for this fall. A pair of students and aspiring players, Elizabeth Ross and Breanna Murray, helped garner interest and took a list of prospective players to the school board, which approved the team in June.

Ongoing fundraisers will help to pay for uniforms, transportation and equipment, among other start-up costs.

The team had its first practice Aug. 11 and has games scheduled against junior varsity teams from Springdale, Aquinas Academy and Beaver Area.

McLaughlin resigns

Knoch is looking for a wrestling coach after the resignation of Mark McLaughlin, who started the program in 2006 and has been the coach since. In all, he coached wrestling for 14 years, youth and junior high included.

Tight fit

Parking will be an issue this football season at Fox Chapel. Because of campus construction, there will be no reserved parking. Overflow parking will be available at O'Hara Elementary School, with shuttle service to the stadium.

Also, handicapped parking will be limited. Fox Chapel's home opener is Sept. 5 against Seneca Valley.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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