Belle Vernon boys soccer has a blast, beats Mt. Pleasant to move into 1st-place tie

Thursday, September 15, 2022 | 10:33 PM

Belle Vernon opened with a quirky kickoff formation with just about every player lined up to one side at the 50-yard line, with a deep kick.

Leopards coach Al Yeschenko said the team was just having some fun. But the fun was only beginning.

They got even more enjoyment out of a shutout victory that earned them a share of first place in Section 3-2A.

Sophomore goalkeeper Bryce Burkhart made seven saves for a clean sheet, and Belle Vernon controlled play in the second half on the way to a 2-0 win over Mt. Pleasant on Thursday night in a matchup of youthful boys soccer teams that are suddenly part of a three-way tie with McGuffey atop the standings.

“I am very proud of our guys,” Yeschenko said. “We were in the film room (Wednesday), and we talked about ourselves, not the opponent. We talked about the little things, the things that we can manage. We played exactly the way we prepared.”

Mt. Pleasant (5-3, 5-1) won three of its last four games coming into the matchup, and Class 2A newcomer Belle Vernon (6-2, 5-1), with 11 new starters, was victorious in two of its previous three.

After a feeling-out first 40 minutes, Belle Vernon went on the attack after halftime to secure an important road win at Viking Stadium.

The Vikings were coming off an impressive 3-0 win over McGuffey (7-2, 5-1), which played six on its back line.

But the momentum did not carry over.

Belle Vernon, which had a few starters playing with “bumps and bruises” from a tough game against Brownsville, finally ended a scoreless stalemate on freshman Preston Rathway’s low-lining blast from 25 yards to give the Leopards a 1-0 lead in the 56th minute.

Senior Dylan Rathway, provided the brother-to-brother assist.

“We had our chances in the first half,” Mt. Pleasant coach Floyd Snyder said. “In the second half, (Belle Vernon) came out flying. They are a good side. We didn’t know what to expect just by looking at their scores.”

The Leopards took a 2-0 advantage in the 70th minute on sophomore Trevor Kovatch’s goal, another heat-seeker that came at an angle from 20 yards, with the assist to sophomore Brandon Yeschenko.

Kovatch, who now has 17 goals this year, played far right, far left and some in the middle of the field.

“I have been up top all my life,” Kovatch said. “But I am willing to play wherever the team needs me. We wanted this game real bad. We came in mentally focused. All day at school we were focused.”

Mt. Pleasant had three significant scoring chances, all by senior Robbie Labuda, the Vikings’ two-sport guy extraordinaire.

Labuda, the leading rusher for the football team, nearly scored on an early breakaway, but his shot sailed wide left. He had another good look on a send-in by junior Luke Rivardo, but Burkhart denied the header in the 31st minute.

“It was great to see (Burkhart) play like that tonight,” Kovatch said. “He has really worked hard to get here.”

All three of Mt. Pleasant’s losses have come via shutout.

“Hopefully, we can get them next time,” Snyder said. “We need to learn to reset and keep playing our game.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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