Leechburg cruises past Jeannette

Friday, October 7, 2022 | 11:13 PM

Randy Walters gazed around McKee Stadium — a storied venue in Jeannette — and he was proud in the moment.

Walters, Leechburg’s proud football coach — especially on this night — witnessed his team again dismantle a Jeannette squad that represents the school with the most victories all-time in the WPIAL.

“I told the kids before the game to look at the scoreboard,” Walters said, turning his attention there.

After the game, it read: “Leechburg 58, Jeannette 21.”

“This is a storied program,” he said. “For us to do it last year (Leechburg routed Jeannette, 53-7, for its first win at McKee Stadium) was fantastic. They were going to come out and play their butts off, and we needed to do it again this year. That’s two times in what? Forever? So, yeah, one time is good. Two times is better. It means a lot.”

Braylan Lovelace rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns — one on a punt return — and Jayden Floyd passed for 132 years and three TDs to Logan Kline as Leechburg (5-2, 3-1) powered its way to the Class A Eastern Conference victory.

It is the second win in a row and fourth in the past five games for Leechburg after a season-opening 34-28 loss to Class 2A Apollo-Ridge.

Jeannette (2-5, 2-1), plagued by penalties, kept the game close early in the third quarter and trailed 24-14 after Noah Sanders scored on a 7-yard touchdown run.

But Leechburg went on to outscore the Jayhawks 34-7 the rest of the way.

“Our depth hurt us tonight for the first time,” said Jeannette coach Tom Paulone, whose team was coming off a 38-6 victory at Riverview a week ago and heads to first-place Greensburg Central Catholic on Friday. “It’s no excuse, though. No excuse. We need to have guys ready. We weren’t ready to win this game.”

Lovelace, a senior, who is headed to Pitt as a linebacker recruit, rushed for 220 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s blowout of Jeannette, and he controlled the Leechburg running game in the latest meeting.

“We’ve got to teach them to tackle better. It’s on us,” Paulone said. “But give credit to those guys over there. They’re a real great team, and Lovelace is an unbelievable player.”

Floyd, a sophomore, succeeded Thomas Burke III at quarterback for a Leechburg team last season that qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 1988, and Walters said his young signal-caller, who completed 9 of 15 attempts, is admirably filling some big shoes.

“It’s not bad having Lovelace,” Walters said. “It’s easier to call the plays. But he’s not the only one. My quarterback is getting better and better. He’s just a kid, just a baby. I’ve got good receivers, and the line is doing a great job. It takes everybody, and I’ve got a great bunch of kids that do a good job with it.”

Floyd threw touchdown passes of 26, 5 and 47 yards to Kline, who also scored on a 27-yard run with a fumble recovery for Leechburg.

Lovelace scored on runs of 17 and 28 yards and a 48-yard punt return for the Blue Devils, who entertain Riverview on Friday.

The first half ended with both teams trading touchdowns in the final minute.

After Leechburg built a 17-0 lead on touchdown passes of 26 and 5 yards from Floyd to Kline and Ryan Shaw’s 25-yard field goal, the Blue Devils took a 24-7 lead into halftime after Lovelace rushed around left end for a 17-yard touchdown run with 40 seconds left.

Just 16 seconds earlier, Jeannette cut its deficit to 17-7 on Payton Molter’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Williamson.

It was mostly Leechburg in the second half. Brandin Gilmer added an 18-yard touchdown run late for the Blue Devils.

Molter, who passed for 110 yards, threw his second touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, a 47-yard strike to Lonnie Greene.

Afterwards, Paulone, who is in his first season at Jeannette, calmly gathered his players and read them a quiet riot act of sorts.

“We hurt ourselves tonight in a lot of ways,” he said. “The penalties were disgusting.

“I just said, ‘Look, it’s a process and we’re not ready to win this game.’ It’s part of the prcoess. We had an opportunity when we offered 92 weight room sessions (prior to the start of the season). You remember stuff like this. We need to get better. The next opportunity comes next with with (Greensburg Central Catholic). Get better. No excuses.”

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