Leechburg clinches 1st winning football season in 30 years

Saturday, October 16, 2021 | 3:23 PM

Leechburg football crossed a major goal off its list Saturday and did so in dominant fashion.

For the first time in 30 years the Blue Devils clinched a winning season with a 71-8 rout of Riverview in a Class A Eastern Conference game on a soggy Saturday afternoon at Riverside Park.

“It feels really good to change the tradition here,” Leechburg tight end/defensive lineman Eli Rich said. “We work really hard, and our coaches are there every day for us.”

The Blue Devils (6-2, 3-2) scored on all six of their possessions in the first half and had a 35-yard interception return from Tyler Villa and a 46-yard punt return by Logan Kline for touchdowns to take a 63-8 lead into halftime.

A week after being held to three points by Bishop Canevin, the Blue Devils found their offensive footing early and often.

“We just put that game behind us and moved on to this week,” said Rich, who had a 40-yard touchdown reception and numerous tackles for loss on defense. “Doing what we did today and achieving a winning season boosted our confidence up, and it’s just going to keep us rolling.”

Braylan Lovelace opened the scoring with a 31-yard touchdown run. He had 42- and 17-yard runs for scores later in the game. He finished with 171 yards on 13 carries.

Blue Devils quarterback Thomas Burke III attempted five passes butthrew for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Following a fumble by Riverview, Burke found Tyler Foley for a 36-yard touchdown. On the next possession, he hit Rich on a 40-yard pass to make it 28-0.

Burke rushed for touchdowns from 12 and 2 yards on back-to-back drives, and Brandin Gilmer scored on a 25-yard run as part of a 35-point second quarter for the Blue Devils.

“I’ve said everywhere I’ve been that it’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s, and I’ve got a few Jimmy’s and Joe’s here at Leechburg,” Leechburg coach Randy Walters said. “Lovelace is certainly one of them, and so is (Burke). We have a few other guys that are pretty good, too, like Eli (Rich) and some of our other outside receivers. When we do things right we’re a pretty good football team.”

Riverview (1-6, 1-4) scored its touchdown on the final play of the first half when Ben Hower found Jack Loughren with a 15-yard strike. The score was set up by a 67-yard run from Landon Johnson.

Prior to Johnson’s run the Raiders hadn’t achieved a first down and were held to 4 yards of total offense. They did not achieve another first down the rest of the game.

Leechburg can end a 33-year playoff drought next Friday with a win at home against Imani Christian. The drought is the longest in the WPIAL.

“We got one monkey off our back today, but we still have another one hanging around,” Walters said. “We’ve got to do the same thing as we did today. When we came into the (Bishop) Canevin game last week, I felt like we were a little bit overconfident and we can’t do that. We have to play the opponent in front of us. If they’re a bit down and we’re supposed to beat them, then we have to beat them. I’m not saying that about Imani, but I’m saying we have to do what we’re supposed to do.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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