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Keystone crown at stake for BVA, Uniontown

| Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

ROSTRAVER TOWNSHIP - Before the season started, everyone looked for the Keystone Conference champ to come out of tonight's Belle Vernon Area-Uniontown football game at Jim Weir Stadium.

Eight weeks later, it's a pretty good bet.

BVA (6-1, 5-0) plays its final conference contest a win away from taking the title.

Meanwhile, Uniontown (5-2, 3-1), the defending champion, can finish as co-champs with wins over the Leps and Laurel Highlands in its final two games.

No one has to tell the opposing coaches Jesse Cramer of Belle Vernon Area and John Fortugna of Uniontown about the contest's importance.

"Our kids know they have to do it," said Fortugna. "We're the defending champions and it means a lot to us."

"We don't want to end up as co-champs," said Cramer.

The Leps rebounded from an embarrassing 43-0 loss at home to Thomas Jefferson with six straight victories.

The biggest was a come-from- behind 20-17 victory over Greensburg Salem two weeks ago when the Leps battled back from a 17-0 halftime deficit in the rain and then held on as the Lions were stopped on the BVA one-yard-line on the game's final play.

Uniontown, meanwhile, suffered its lone Keystone loss at Greensburg, 9-7, last month to snap a 15-game regular season winning streak.

While the Leps are coming in on a winning streak, Uniontown was overpowered in its last outing at home by Blackhawk, 40-0.

"It was a bad loss," said Fortugna. "I can't explain it. We just weren't on."

Fortugna thinks his team will be ready for BVA.

"Our kids are fighters," he said. "They'll be fired up."

Despite BVA's recent success, Cramer feels the Leps have room for improvement.

"We have to eliminate little mistakes like offsides and fumbles," he claimed. "We haven't played a good, solid game without mistakes."

The Leps are averaging three fumbles a game.

Fortugna is impressed with the Leps.

"They're big up front," he said. "They're bigger and stronger than last year."

Uniontown, however, boasts two of the bigger running tandems in Bill McLee and Greg Leonard, juniors who tip the scales at over 250 pounds.

McLee leads the team with 604 yards while Leonard has 221 and a 6.1 yard average.

Two other juniors, Ryan Guthrie and Junior Mays, make up the passing tandem.

Guthrie has completed 30 of 84 passes for 498 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.

Mayes has 15 catches for 260 yards and two scores.

BVA, on the other hand, has lived by the run throwing an average of five passes a game.

Junior Trent Scott will be making his second start at quarterback with senior Derek Brletich sidelined by an injury.

Andrew Bell is the Leps' leading rusher with 551 yards.

BVA's other offensive weapon is senior Jon Fowler, who's kicked six field goals including two from 48 yards and one from 44.

"Having a kicker like Jon really helps," noted Cramer. "You never know when three points can make the difference."

Fortugna doesn't expect a lot of points.

"It's going to be low scoring," he said.

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