Belle Vernon boys break in new formation, roll past section rival Yough

Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | 10:13 PM

Belle Vernon must have noticed when this week’s boys soccer rankings came out — WPIAL and state — and it did not make the cut.

No top five, no top 10 … no love?

“It’s not really something we talk about,” coach Al Yeschenko said. “Maybe the kids know, I’m not sure.”

The Leopards, who appeared briefly at No. 5 in the Tribune-Review rankings and No. 8 in the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association poll last week, looked fired up for their trip to Yough on Tuesday night.

If they had any frustration, they took it out on the Cougars in a 5-0 victory in Section 3-2A.

With a new formation in action for the first time, Belle Vernon played fast and struck quickly as it remained in a first-place tie with Mt. Pleasant (8-2, 8-1).

Trevor Kovatch netted four goals, all in the first half, giving him 30 for the season, and the Leopards (9-2, 8-1) controlled play from the start at Cougar Mountain Stadium.

Belle Vernon did all of its scoring in the first half against Yough (6-5-1, 5-4) for its seventh win in eight games.

“We changed up the formation, and the kids made the adjustment really well,” Yeschenko said. “We have been working on it in practice and thought tonight would be a good time to try it out.

“Trevor scored four, but those were team goals.”

The Leopards and goalkeeper Bryce Burkhart have six shutouts this year.

Yough, which had a four-game winning streak earlier in the season and is in the thick of the playoff race, has dropped three of it last four.

“You have to take care of the little things,” Yough coach Ron Dushack said. “We’re a young team. We have five seniors, three juniors and 19 sophomores and freshmen. We’re going to get there, we’re just not there yet.”

Belle Vernon, which lost to McGuffey, 2-1, three games ago, was crisp from the start, getting Kovatch into space to create offense.

Kovatch scored off a touch from Brandon Yeschenko just four minutes in, and Logan Metzger made it 2-0 three minutes later when he delivered a header into the net off a free kick from Mason Yeschenko.

“We’re able to use Brandon to build out and find four targets,” Coach Yeschenko said. “There are more options with us getting more forward.”

Kovatch, the second-leading goal scorer in the WPIAL, struck again in the 13th minute with a rip from just inside the 18 to make it 3-0.

His bender from the far side gave him a hat trick in the 16th minute, and his header off another Mason Yeschenko pass gave the Leopards a 5-0 advantage with 22 minutes left in the half.

“They took over with their athleticism and imposed their will,” Dushack said. “They had better athletes.”

Jackson Coneybeer and Brandon Yeschenko added assists.

Burkhart made four saves for Belle Vernon, including a punch-away on a Cougars’ free kick attempt.

Yough played two goalies. Jack Kopp had six saves in the first half, and Zander Aird made four stops over the second 40-minute stanza.

Belle Vernon outshot Yough, 18-4.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at

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