Belle Vernon stars come out in rout of South Allegheny

Friday, September 29, 2023 | 11:10 PM

A week after suffering its first loss of the season at the hands of Thomas Jefferson in nonconference play, Belle Vernon bounced back in dominant fashion Friday night.

The Leopards scored 50 first-half points and relied on big offensive performances from Quinton Martin and Braden Laux in a 57-6 rout of South Allegheny at Gladiators Stadium.

Martin rushed for three scores and caught another, and Laux hit three receivers for touchdowns as BVA (4-1, 1-0) cruised to win its Interstate Conference opener.

“The whole week, we really needed to cleanse the bad taste out of our mouths and as much as we turned the page, turning the page turned into anger, which was what I was hoping to see,” BVA coach Matt Humbert said. “We knew South Allegheny was going to struggle, but those kids really battled. Sometimes when a team is injury-plagued and they have low numbers, they tend to self-explode, so I give their coach and their team a lot of credit because they never backed down and they played until the end.”

While SA (1-5, 0-1) struggled to generate much fluidity on offense, Cameron Epps served as a bright spot in the loss. He finished with 18 carries for 88 yards and had runs of 18 and 25 yards on a fourth-quarter drive that led to a 4-yard touchdown run by Kai Myers.

“I don’t think there are many running backs better than Cam,” SA coach Brian Hanson said. “I’ve coached my share of good running backs over the years, and he’s one of the best. He comes to play every Friday night and gives us a chance.”

SA finished with just more than 100 yards of total offense and allowed BVA to compile just less than 400.

The Gladiators were plagued by injuries as they were without seven starters.

Belle Vernon is a great football team,” Hanson said. “I thought they showed a lot of class out there because, with the athletes and the coaches they have over there, they could have easily put it to us.

“We showed glimpses of some good things, and we have some stuff to build off of.”

BVA wasted little time setting the tone for the game as Anthony Crews returned the opening kickoff 69 yards to the South Allegheny 7. One offensive play later, Kole Doppelheuer found the end zone.

On BVA’s next possession, Martin followed with his first score of the night, a 17-yard run that pushed the lead to 13-0 with 8 minutes, 32 seconds to go in the first quarter.

The Penn State commit brought in an 8-yard touchdown grab early in the second quarter before adding scores on runs of 1 and 22 yards before halftime. He finished with eight carries for 74 yards, and Doppelheuer totaled three carries for 60 yards. As a team, BVA totaled over 220 yards on the ground while playing without the services of injured running back Jake Gedekoh.

“We just wanted to execute. We didn’t want big splash plays just because we knew we could get them; we wanted to execute and for the film to look good,” Humbert said. “I think for the most part we were able to spread the ball around and execute.”

Later in the first, BVA (4-1, 1-0) extended its lead to 15-0 via a safety before Laux got in on the action.

He followed up a 25-yard completion to Crews with a 25-yard scoring strike to Colton Lee. Laux, who added a 12-yard touchdown pass to Zach Zelenski in the second quarter, completed 9 of 10 passes for 159 yards.

With the running clock and the mercy rule in effect, BVA capped the scoring in the third quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run by Curtis Wade.

“This week, we really tried to emphasize moving guys in and out,” said Humbert, who saw a number of young players get time in the second half. “I was pleased with all the personnel changing on both sides of the ball and how we executed with that.”

South Allegheny returns to action at Southmoreland next week, and BVA hosts Greensburg Salem.

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