Long interception returns for TDs highlight Leechburg’s 3rd straight win

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Friday, September 10, 2021 | 10:37 PM


Leechburg picked the right way to break in the new artificial turf at Veterans Memorial Stadium — with an emphasis on “pick.”

An 82-yard interception return touchdown by Thomas Burke and a 100-yard pick-six by Braylan Lovelace bookended another high-scoring night for the Blue Devils in a 50-20 nonconference win over Brentwood on Friday night.

Those were just two of the big plays that propelled Leechburg to its first 3-0 start to a season since 2000,

“The kids did a heck of a job. The kids fought, and we’re a good football team,” Leechburg coach Randy Waters said. “We made a lot of plays in the second half, and we put them away.”

Big plays helped Leechburg take control of the game after Brentwood (1-2) controlled things in the first quarter. The Spartans came up with a red-zone stop on the Blue Devils’ first drive of the game, and Brentwood marched with ease from their own 14 to the Leechburg 18.

But Burke made a perfect read on the next play, jumping the pattern to pick off a Jase Keib pass toward the sideline and taking the interception the other way for the first score on his team’s new turf.

“I think it flip-flopped things around. We had a drive going. We’re driving it right down their throat. And that’s a bad play call, bad timing, whatever. I’ll take credit for that,” Brentwood coach Kevin Kissell said. “We’re running the ball, running the ball, and the turnover killed us.”

Leechburg increased the lead to 13-0 on the first of two rushing touchdown by Lovelace, who finished with 148 yards on 15 carries. But Brentwood had their answer in running back Lamarr Williams, who posted 103 yards on 15 carries and scored to cut the lead to 13-7 in the second quarter.

But as Brentwood drove again, another big defensive play put Leechburg firmly in command. Tyler Foley came up with an interception and run back for the Blue Devils, and though a penalty wiped out the touchdown return, it set up Foley to be on the receiving end of a 29-yard touchdown pass from Burke to make it 19-7 at halftime.

“It should have been three (interception return touchdowns), but our defense played a great game. My defensive coordinator, John Allen Snyder, does a great job. He gets the kids ready, and everybody played pretty darn well,” Waters said.

The big plays kept rolling for the Blue Devils, as Burke finished with 193 yards on 13-of-23 passing. Eli Rich rushed for touchdowns of 12 and 5 yards, and he also threw a 40-yard halfback pass to Logan Kline in the second half.

With his team off to such a great start, Waters wants to keep his Blue Devils on a high, even though they know things are about to pick up on their schedule.

“We’ve got games coming up that are a bear,” he said. “We’ve got Clairton next week at their place. We’ve got Springdale coming here. This does not get any easier, but, hopefully, we get a couple of injured kids back and we just keep riding it. We work our tails off during the week, and we just have to keep rolling.”

Keib finished with 111 yards and a touchdown on 7-of-13 passing for Brentwood, which played most of the second half with leading rusher Williams sidelined by injury.

Matt Grubba is a contributing writer.

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