Belle Vernon shuts out West Mifflin for Big 8 victory

Friday, September 18, 2020 | 11:25 PM

After a big win, Belle Vernoncoach Matt Humbert usually tells his team to enjoy it for a day or two before returning to practice the following week.

Not this week.

Minutes after his team blasted West Mifflin, 45-0, in a Class 4A Big 8 Conference matchup, Humbert told his team he doesn’t want them to enjoy this win. A workmanlike mentality needs to be the priority to prepare for what the Leopards have been waiting for.

A showdown with Thomas Jefferson.

Belle Vernon (2-0, 2-0) wasted no time putting up points against the Titans (0-2, 0-2), putting a touchdown on the board just 23 seconds in. They added another just over two minutes later, and the rout was on from there.

Dane Anden’s 74-yard kickoff return to open the game set up the first score, his 4-yard reception from quarterback Devin Whitlock.

After the Titans went three-and-out on the next drive, it was Anden’s turn. The electrifying playmaker bobbed and weaved his way through the Titans’ coverage and returned the punt 55 yards for a touchdown to give Belle Vernon a 14-0 lead with over nine minutes to go in the first half.

“Dane’s return really started things off,” Humbert said. “He’s a guy that I think gets overlooked a lot for what he does for us. It’s nice to see him have the game he did. We’re not the type of team that’s going to hand it off to the tailback 25 times a game, so when he gets his carries, he has to make things happen.”

Anden did just that for the Leopards on Friday.

Anden finished with 118 yards on 11 carries and added a 30-yard touchdown run just before halftime to go with his touchdown catch. He added an 11-yard run in the third quarter for his third touchdown of the game.

The Leopards had no issues neutralizing West Mifflin defensive end, and Pitt recruit, Nakhi Johnson.

“It’s simple, you just run away from him or get him crossed up with some things,” Humbert said. “I thought we did a good job. I think he only had one big tackle for loss on us.

After the quick start in the first quarter, the Leopards added three scores before halftime.

Jake Haney scored from 5 yards out on a jet sweep, and Whitlock made a great play to avoid the Titans’ rush to find freshman Quinton Martin for a 5-yard score. It was the 6-3 freshman’s first varsity touchdown.

“We showed we’re going to throw the ball out on the perimeter, we’re going to run the quarterback and we’re going to cross you up in the running game,” Humbert said. “But offensively, I’m still looking for a little crispness, and we have to try to sort out our receiver situation. There’s just so many guys capable of doing things. That’s more of a coaching thing, though.”

Whitlock ended the night with two touchdown passes after completing nine of 12 passes for 79 yards.

Leading 32-0 in the third quarter, BVA was able to start the running clock when Anden scored his final touchdown.

Humbert has promised throughout the early season to use two quarterbacks. Jackson Jewell had a share of playing time Friday and was impressive. Jewell was six for six throwing the ball for 37 yards and finished with 100 all-purpose yards. He scored the Leopards’ final touchdown from 5 yards out.

“The reason why it works so well for us is because of those two guys’ attitude. They’re constantly cheering for one another, and both run the offense so well,” Humbert said. “I think people see Devin and think he can’t throw the ball. I think people see Jewell and think he can’t run the ball. That’s definitely not the case.”

Defensively, the Leopards were dominant again behind the play of their defensive line and middle linebackers as the team will undoubtedly enjoy donuts for the second week in a row after their second shutout.

Cole Weightman finished with 16 tackles and two sacks, and Jack Bryer added 14 tackles and a sack. The defensive line aided their cause, allowing them to run free. As a unit, the Leopards’ defense allowed only 39 yards rushing and 72 through the air.

“It’s the second game in a row our defensive line had a performance like that,” Humbert said. “Dakota Marion, Anthony Evans, Chad Metikosh, Ryan McGrew, Nate Farley, all those guys. They set a high standard.”

The Titans had a chance to put points on the board late in the fourth quarter after backup quarterback Tayshawn McMillan connected with Tyjier Williams for a 36-yard gain down to the BVA 4-yard line. But Tyrell Ogletree fumbled at the 2-yard line, and Jewell recovered for Belle Vernon.

With the win, the showdown is set for Friday at Jaguars Stadium as the Leopards will face off with Thomas Jefferson for Big 8 supremacy.

“After not knowing if we were even going to get to play, now we have this game to look forward to,” Humbert said. “We’re so grateful to be here from where we were a couple of months ago. These are the types of games you play for.”

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