Belle Vernon fends off Ringgold upset bid

Saturday, October 9, 2021 | 12:50 AM

The rains came at the start of the second half, and then lightning followed on the third possession after halftime Friday night at Joe Montana Stadium.

The game was paused at the 7:24 mark of the third quarter with Belle Vernon leading Ringgold by a touchdown. After a two-hour delay, the game resumed with very few fans in the stands.

Despite the weird circumstance, the Leopards secured a 35-14 victory over the Rams.

Belle Vernon had back-to-back emotional games the last two weeks against previously unbeaten squads, Thomas Jefferson and Laurel Highlands. Belle Vernon won both of those contest in the Big Eight Conference but had to avoid a letdown versus Ringgold.

“It was ugly tonight, and we didn’t execute in a lot of areas,” coach Matt Humbert said. “It was such a weird feeling and a weird game with that long of a weather delay. I’m just glad we came out of here with a win and we are moving onto the next game.”

The Leopards (6-0, 4-0) grabbed an early 7-0 on their opening drive, as Devin Whitlock capped off a seven-play, 57-yard march with a 9-yard rushing score with nine minutes remaining in the first quarter.

The Rams (3-4, 0-3) tried to respond on their first possession, but a 15-play drive stalled out on the 21-yard line after an incomplete pass on fourth-and-10.

Belle Vernon fumbled on its next two drives, and Ringgold took advantage of the second fumble when Landon Oslowski tallied a 6-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. Oslowski, who had 22 carries in the first half, kicked the extra point to knot things up at 7-7 with 6:09 left before intermission.

After Ringgold failed to take the lead with a turnover on downs at the 41-yard line, Belle Vernon quickly went down field on only four plays and Jake Gedekoh ended the drive with an 11-yard touchdown. The Leopards carried a 14-7 lead into halftime.

“Our kids played their hearts out and we battled through this bizarre game,” Ringgold coach Darwin Manges said. “Devin is hard to defend and he makes plays. He is elusive and hard to stop all the time. We missed out on some early opportunities and couldn’t take the lead in the first half.”

A lighting delay put a pause in the action at exactly 8:29 p.m.

Prior to the delay, Belle Vernon’s potent offense looked very sluggish as tailback Quinton Martin was sidelined for the second straight week. The Leps had a total of three fumbles and only gained 149 yards.

After the restart and on the Leps’ first offensive play, Whitlock juked his way to a 45-yard touchdown run that gave the visitors a 21-7 lead after a successful Tyler Kovatch PAT with 3:23 left in the third.

Whitlock finished with 182 rushing yards on 12 carries and accounted for TD runs of 9 and 1 yard in the second half. Gedekoh ended his night with 70 yards on the ground.

“We were sloppy on offense and those fumbles are not like us,” Humbert said. “We shot ourselves in the foot, but our defense came through with some huge stops in the first half. We were solid at times on defense, but still gave up some yards. It wasn’t a good showing, but we just got to lick our wounds and get healthy. We have to learn from this game.”

Ringgold’s only points in the second half were courtesy of a 4-yard touchdown run by Deondre Dotson. Oslowski amassed 32 carries for 75 yards, while Donte Kinds hauled in three balls for 76 yards.

“We played our game tonight,” Manges said. “We wanted to run the ball and chew up the clock. We had to win the time of possession and keep their offense off the field. The delay hurt, but both teams had to battle through that. It was a difficult situation, but our kids left everything out on the field.”

With the win, Belle Vernon improves to 10-6 versus Ringgold since 2005, having won the last seven meetings

Both teams are back in Big Eight action next week, as Belle Vernon hosts Trinity and Ringgold ventures out to Thomas Jefferson.

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