Belle Vernon roars into Class 3A with Quinton Martin, strong supporting cast

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Thursday, August 18, 2022 | 12:01 PM


Belle Vernon coach Matt Humbert doesn’t make too much of his team’s drop to Class 3A, though it would be hard to blame him for being excited.

As a Class 4A school last season, the Leopards advanced to the WPIAL championship game, where they lost to perennial power Aliquippa. So, naturally, playing in a smaller classification gives BVA a better chance to get to the top, right?

“We always think we have a good shot,” Humbert said. “The biggest thing we’re clinging onto is we need to finish. The key to all of that is we need to stay healthy.”

The Leopards were able to navigate some injuries last season, particularly along the offensive line. But the roster was bigger then. Despite this season’s smaller roster, BVA returns a number of players who made significant contributions in 2021.

Chief among them is junior Quinton Martin. One of the nation’s top college prospects in his graduating class, Martin will be the focal point of Belle Vernon’s offense now that shifty, athletic quarterback Devin Whitlock is in the college ranks.

Martin has played numerous positions on offense and defense during preseason workouts and 7-on-7s, so where he pops up at any given time is anyone’s guess.

But if all eyes are on Martin, the rest of the players on offense are confident they can make opposing defenses pay.

“If they have their eyes on Quinton, somebody else is going to be making those plays,” said receiver/cornerback Evan Pohlot. “And if there’s two or three guys watching Quinton, there’s going to be someone open, and whoever that someone is, they can definitely come up to the plate and make that play happen.”

Pohlot is part of a small group of seniors who will make a big splash. Tanner Steeber is vying for the starting quarterback spot, with junior Braden Laux as the other combatant. Chase Ruokonen joins Pohlot at one of the wideout spots and will play linebacker along with classmate Parker Jewell, who moves from defensive line.

Steve Macheska, who stepped in to play offensive line last season, will be one of the line’s anchors along with Zach May.

Juniors Dane Levi and Luke Bryer also will figure prominently on the offensive line.

Whereas last season, the offensive line was a bit of a question mark — and became even more muddled after a series of injuries — Humbert said the line should be one of the Leopards’ strengths.

“Last season was a very interesting season in the sense that that group of linemen overachieved above and beyond what we thought they would do and had a hell of a year,” Humbert said. “But the benefit to this year is we have some of those younger kids who did get experience, and we have some kids returning, so I think we’re a little deeper even though our roster isn’t deep.”

Regardless of who wins the quarterback competition, he will have the comfort of being able to hand the ball to junior Jake Gedekoh. At 6-foot, 205 pounds, Gedekoh is a hard runner who will be counted on to get the tough yards.

Gedekoh also will play linebacker along with talented junior Tanner Moody and, at times, Martin. Martin’s most frequent deployment on defense will be in the secondary.

Junior Adam LaCarte also returns to shore up the secondary.

Belle Vernon would seem to have the necessary pieces to, indeed, take another shot at a WPIAL title. All that remains is proving it between the lines.

“We haven’t (won a title) in some time … and then last year we came so close,” Pohlot said. “So I think this year is going to be the year.”

Belle Vernon

Coach: Matt Humbert

2021 record: 10-1, 6-0 in Class 4A Big Eight

All-time record: 341-238-7

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

9.2 Laurel Highlands, 7

9.9 at McKeesport, 7

9.16 Penn-Trafford, 7

9.23 at Thomas Jefferson, 7

9.30 South Allegheny*, 7

10.7 at Greensburg Salem*, 7

10.14 Mt. Pleasant*, 7

10.21 Southmoreland*, 7

10.28 at Elizabeth Forward*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Devin Whitlock*

35-73, 528 yards, 6 TDs

Rushing: Whitlock*

101-1,082, 15 TDs

Receiving: Tanner Steeber

14-145, 2 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Coach Matt Humbert is in line to earn his 100th career victory. He enters the season with 95 career wins, including four seasons at Ringgold.

• The Leopards will field a roster of fewer than 50 players this season — Humbert estimated closer to 40 — one of their smallest in recent memory.

ROSTER

No., Name, Pos., Ht./Wt., Cl.

1, Kole Doppelheuer, RB/DB, 5-9/155, So.

2, Colton Lee, WR/LB, 6-2/160, Jr.

3, Evan Pohlot, WR/DB, 6-3/205, Sr.

4, Parker Jewell, FB/LB, 5-11/195, Sr.

5, Anthony Crews, WR/DB, 5-10/165, So.

6, Alonzo Wade, WR/LB, 6-2/180, So.

7, Dominick Sasko, WR/LB, 5-11/185, Sr.

8, Curtis Wade, WR/QB/DB, 6-1/170, Fr.

9, Deaubre Lightfoot, RB/DB, 5-10/165, Fr.

10, Jake Gedekoh, RB/DB, 6-0/205, Jr.

11, Tanner Steeber, QB/LB, 6-1/195, Sr.

12, Nick Mahaleko, WR/QB/DB, 5-9/145, Fr.

13, Chase Mertz, QB/LB, 6-0/150, So.

14, Braden Laux, QB/DE, 6-5/215, Jr.

15, Evan Mesco, WR/DB, 5-7/120, Fr.

16, Caleb Horner, WR/DB, 5-6/145, Fr.

17, Chase Ruokonen, WR/DB, 6-0/175, Sr.

18, Bradey Gabrovsek, WR/LB, 5-10/155, Fr.

19, Adam LaCarte, WR/DB, 6-1/185, Jr.

20, Mitchell Daley, WR/DB, 5-6/135, Fr.

21, Dominic Ghilani, WR/DB, 5-11/165, So.

22, Tanner Moody, RB/LB, 5-10/170, Jr.

24, Jake Tatar, WR/DB, 5-11/160, Jr.

25, Quinton Martin, RB/DB, 6-3/200, Jr.

32, Zach Zelenski, RB/LB, 5-10/195, Jr.

34, Dominick Sasko, OL/DL, 5-10/185, Jr.

41, Theo Brewer, WR/DB, 6-1/160, So.

42, Landen Baron, WR/DB, 5-11/155, Jr.

50, Dylan Dewitt, OL/DL, 6-0/235, Jr.

51, Zach May, OL/DL, 6-4/250, Sr.

52, Jake Heckel, OL/DL, 6-0/260, Jr.

53, Luke Bryer, OL/DL, 5-10/220, Jr.

55, Tyler Zelenski, OL/DL, 6-0/205, So.

56, Ryan Kent, OL/DL, 6-1/220, Fr.

58, Steve Macheska, OL/DL, 6-4/240, Sr.

60, Jacob Pfarr, OL/DL, 5-8/205, So.

63, Blake Jensen, OL/DL, 6-0/205, Jr.

64, Perry Riggle, OL/DL, 6-0/260, Jr.

65, Cole Browder, OL/DL, 5-10/200, So.

68, Timmy Schwerha, OL/DL, 6-0/245, Fr.

70, Dane Levi, OL/DL, 6-3/260, Jr.

72, Kyle Keller, OL/DL, 5-8/170, Fr.

73, Paul Kessler, OL/DL, 5-9/255, Jr.

80, Jackson Alexander, TE/DL, 5-11/160, Fr.

86, Willie Schwerha, P/K, 6-0/180, Jr.

88, Aiden Johnson, TE/DE, 6-2/215, Jr.

Note: Due to publishing scheduling conflicts, the previews for Interstate Conference team Elizabeth Forward will appear on Trib HSSN next week.

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