Belle Vernon seniors celebrate back-to-back WPIAL, PIAA football titles

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Monday, May 20, 2024 | 10:49 AM


For the second time in two seasons, Belle Vernon’s football team commemorated a state championship season with a ring ceremony at Leopard Hall on May 8.

The current group is special as it became the first set of Leopards to win a state championship last season and subsequently the first Leopards to repeat that feat this past season. BVA beat Hickory, 42-16, to advance to the PIAA championship before dominating Northwestern Lehigh to win 38-7 in December.

Belle Vernon also went back-to-back with WPIAL championships as it defeated Avonworth at Acrisure Stadium in two straight seasons.

A group of 14 seniors officially capped off their careers in the football program as Luke Bryer, Dylan DeWitt, Jake Gedekoh, Jake Heckel, Adam LaCarte, Braden Laux, Colton Lee, Dane Levi, Quinton Martin, Tanner Moody, Jacob Pfarr, Izak Sobczak, Jake Tatar and Zach Zelenski received the final rings of their high school tenures.

This year’s state championship rings featured the green BVA logo in the center with the word “STATE” above it and “CHAMPIONS” below it.

They are comfortably held in cases that feature a small commemorative placard that label the player’s name as 2023 state champions.

The ceremony was the cherry on top of another special season.

“It’s the last event that the seniors will have with the football program,” coach Matt Humbert said. “What better way to go out than with a nice big ring? It’s the last event that the underclassmen will get to conclude that championship season, but I think the main thing that you try to instill in these kids is the scarcity of events like this and the fact that not many kids in the state of Pennsylvania or anywhere get to do something like this.

“I think the biggest thing that you do is try to get them to appreciate the situation they’re in and let them enjoy it, because everything we do is so fast-paced in scholastic athletics. It’s on-to-the-next and on-to-the-next, so it’s nice to be able to pump the brakes and enjoy the moment.”

The team seemed happy to do just that during the event, taking in a spirited speech from their head coach and some more words of encouragement from the rest of the coaching staff as well.

Humbert told the players to continue their exceptional habits moving forward in life to make sure that they continue to reap the benefits, among other things.

“Use your uncomfortable moments in the program to equip yourself for adulthood,” he said. “Also, it’s their duty to be in and around the program. We want to create a culture where the tradition never graduates. We want those kids to be at the games and check in. I think we get a lot of kids that do that, but we really want to make sure that these guys do it more than anyone else has so far.”

Apart from the message from coaches, players were excited to add some more jewelry to their collections.

“It feels amazing that we’re the only team at Belle Vernon to ever do this twice,” rising senior Alonzo Wade said. “It feels pretty good.”

“It feels even better now that we’re getting the rings,” said LaCarte, who is set to join the John Carroll football program upon graduation. “Having two at home now feels great.”

With the staff addressing players, it was clear the entire team had learned several lessons that will stretch beyond the gridiron.

“We’ve learned to never give up and always keep growing,” said Martin, who graduated from Belle Vernon early to enroll at Penn State, where he is playing football. “You can’t control everything, but it’s important to control what you can control and take everything step-by-step.”

“I think this shows us what hard work and determination can accomplish,” LaCarte said. “Moving forward, this shows me that I have to face challenges head-on in the future and never take anything for granted.”

As for Wade, he’s got one more year of football left before it’s all said and done.

“I’m gonna try to get another one next year,” Wade said. “It’s gonna be hard with all the seniors leaving, but that’s my goal for next year.”

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