McKeesport grinds out victory over Belle Vernon

Friday, September 9, 2022 | 11:45 PM

It was the Bobbie Boyd show Friday night at George L. Smith Field at Weigle-Schaeffer Stadium.

The McKeesport standout ran for more than 160 yards and a score while also adding a stout defensive effort to help lead the Tigers to a 14-6 victory over visiting Belle Vernon in a nonconference clash.

One week after totaling 149 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in a win against Class 5A Penn-Trafford, Boyd carried the ball 24 times for 164 yards and a 6-yard touchdown in the opening frame. He added two interceptions, including a 55-yard pick-six in the second quarter.

“He’s doing this against some good, well-coached teams, too,” McKeesport coach Matt Miller said. “They’re coming for him, so it makes what he’s doing even more amazing. He’s an outstanding kid who has worked his tail off to be where he is.”

After McKeesport (3-0) fumbled on its first possession, Boyd wasted little time turning things around for the Tigers on their second drive of the contest.

With his team set up at its own 18-yard line, Boyd found some running room and weaved around a handful of BVA defenders on his way to a 70-yard gain. Initially, the run resulted in an 82-yard touchdown run, but Boyd’s helmet was taken off during the play and officials marked him down at the Leopards’ 12.

Two plays later, he was in the end zone.

“I hit the hole, and I knew I could score,” Boyd said of the long run. “I had the open field, and I knew all I had to do was beat Quinton (Martin).”

The Tigers eventually added to their lead right before halftime when Boyd picked off a pass from Braden Laux and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown that made it 14-0.

The Leopards (1-1) struggled to do much offensively in the opening half, generating just 44 yards of total offense.

They finished with 144 total yards, which included a 92-yard touchdown pass from Laux to Chase Ruokonen in the fourth quarter.

BVA finished with 28 yards on the ground.

“I’m surprised at the score because that game could have gotten really out of hand with our lack of productivity on the offensive side of the ball,” BVA coach Matt Humbert said. “Our defense played phenomenal, I thought. We had some huge fourth-down stops, so they really delivered. We just couldn’t do anything offensively.”

Miller was pleased with the defensive effort as the group forced three turnovers and constantly put pressure on BVA’s playmakers.

In particular, the Tigers honed in on limiting Martin, one of the top college prospects in the nation, to 34 yards on 10 carries.

“They gave us great field position all day,” Miller said. “They get after the quarterback, they tackle real well and it’s just a testament to those kids. They are all aggressive, hard-nosed, tough kids who are capable of taking down good ball players.”

McKeesport forced BVA to punt on its first second-half possession before taking nearly nine and a half minutes off the clock with a massive 16-play drive that extended into the fourth quarter.

While the Tigers ended up turning the ball over on downs, they didn’t give the Leopards a chance to generate any type of fluidity on the offensive end.

“If we put points on the board there, it would have been awesome,” Miller said. “That’s what’s great about the triple-option, though. It’s all about getting it moving with five or six yards per play and continuing to move the sticks.”

With the win, McKeesport earned No. 699 in program history. The Tigers will look to capture their historic 700th victory when they travel to Laurel Highlands next week.

Meanwhile, the Leopards will attempt to bounce back when they return home to host Penn-Trafford in another nonconference matchup.

“As much as I think we feel we have a lot coming back and returning, we’re still breaking in a lot of players in a lot of different positions,” Humbert said. “It’s a struggle right now, more offensively than defensively, but I love the guys we have. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to make the corrections we need to make.”

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