Belle Vernon offense overpowers Ringgold

Friday, October 25, 2019 | 11:06 PM

Belle Vernon had no problems running through rival Ringgold in the regular-season finale for both teams Friday night at James Weir Stadium.

The Leopards took advantage of overpowering line play and numerous short-field opportunities to roll to a 36-point second quarter on their way to a 63-6 win.

BVA quarterback Jared Hartman threw three touchdown passes in the first half, two to Nolan Labuda from 29 and 47 yards out, as he got to within three scoring strikes of the Leopards program record.

Labuda added a 52-yard punt return to give him three touchdowns on the night.

“I’m not a big proponent of practicing all week and then those guys not playing. The biggest thing for me was having the starting guys come in and get their reps, get out of here healthy,” BVA head coach Matt Humbert said. “We wanted to see the younger kids, get in some wildcat stuff and run down the clock.”

Ringgold’s young offensive line struggled with the brute strength of the Leopards’ unit. The Rams had 10 possessions in the first half and managed only 20 yards. Of their two first downs, one was on a penalty.

“When you have a freshman and all those sophomores up against juniors and seniors, you’re going to have a long day,” Ringgold coach Darwin Manges said. “Obviously we didn’t get the results we wanted, but the foundation is here. We need to get bigger, faster, stronger.

“Back 27 years ago, we were the Belle Vernon and TJ of the conference. That’s the level we’re going to get to. It’s a process.”

The Leopards (8-1, 6-1) got on the board on their first possession as Larry Callaway capped off a four-play, 52-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run.

After blocking a Rams’ punt on the ensuing drive, Hartman connected with Dane Anden for a 7-yard touchdown pass to make it 13-0.

After a 50-yard punt by Ringgold’s Clayton Rosensteel started the second quarter, Hartman and Labuda hooked up for their first touchdown connection on the third play of BVA’s drive.

BVA forced another punt, which ended up being returned by Labuda for a 26-0 lead.

Before the half, Devin Whitlock added a 3-yard touchdown out of the wildcat, Labuda had his 47-yard catch and run for a touchdown, and Dane Anden added his second of three touchdowns on a 7-yard run.

“It’s nice to see Dane have a big game. He puts in a lot of work for us,” Humbert said. “He’s definitely a kid that could be a starting tailback on a lot of teams and it’s nice to know we have a lot of depth at that position.

“He’s really setting himself up to be a big contributor for us next year.”

With Belle Vernon leading 49-0 at the half, the Leopards’ second team scored on its opening drive when Anden scored on a 55-yard run. The junior running back had 106 yards on six carries.

The Leopards finished with 292 yards on the ground.

After the defense forced another Rams’ three-and-out, Jack Bryer scored the final Leopards’ touchdown to finish off a five-play, 39-yard drive with a 2-yard run.

The Rams (1-9, 0-7) added a late touchdown when quarterback Jacob Duncan completed his only pass of the game, a 60-yard hookup with James Minnie. He finished 1 of 13.

“Has there been frustration? Sure, there has,” Manges said. “These young kids are getting a taste, and I’ll tell you what, this coaching staff is committed to these guys. As a coach, yes it’s been frustrating, but do I love these kids? Yes I do, every one of those guys. We’re on the drive to restore the pride. That’s going to be our mantra heading into next season.

“We’re going to take two weeks off here and the kids are already looking forward to getting back at it after that.”

The record-breaking season continues for the Leopards as Labuda, who already owns the single-season record for receptions, needs only two to break Erik Gill’s program record for career receptions.

Hartman is only three passing touchdowns from the career mark owned by Josh Cramer, and the team is only 17 points from the record for points in a season. Humbert has moved into second place on the all-time wins list behind Gary Dongilli.

Hartman finished 7 of 9 for 141 yards and the two touchdowns.

“Jared’s always had the tools. He started as a sophomore. The biggest thing is he’s getting rid of the ball quicker and his decision making is on point,” Humbert said. “We wanted to be a little more vertical with our passes tonight. He has a lot of weapons, but him and Nolan have that steady connection.”

Labuda finished with four catches for 91 yards.

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