QB Whitlock helps Belle Vernon shut out McKeesport in opener

Friday, September 11, 2020 | 10:41 PM

When the Belle Vernon football team shuts out an opponent, it gets doughnuts from the coaching staff.

There may be no better-tasting donuts than the next ones the team will ingest.

The Leopards took offense to being an underdog against Class 4A newcomer McKeesport and handed the Tigers a 20-0 beating Friday on their home field to open the season.

Junior quarterback Devin Whitlock was electric for the Leopards (1-0, 1-0 Big Eight), carrying the ball 17 times for 239 yards. He opened the scoring with a 74-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the game.

“We know what Devin can do with the ball,” Belle Vernon coach Matt Humbert said. “I was glad to see him do it early, but I’m kind of disappointed with us offensively.”

Said Whitlock: “It always feels good when you get one and break away. But I have to give credit to my O-line, though. They were opening big holes for me and Dane (Anden) all night long.”

McKeesport coach Matt Miller was more than disappointed with his team’s performance.

“We came out flat, stayed flat, and they gave us a butt-kicking,” Miller said. “We held them off the board for most of the games, but we were just holding things together with Band-Aids.

“We just weren’t ready to go, and they beat us all over the field.”

Whitlock scored the opening touchdown with 8 minutes, 19 seconds left to go in the first quarter, but the Leopards then were held off the scoreboard until the fourth.

“I expected us to play better procedurely,” Humbert said. “We practice it over and over. God, we moved the ball up and down the field and we didn’t score points. But I’m more frustrated by the way we didn’t play good procedure football.”

One unit that played well in every way was the Leopards defense.

The unit didn’t allow much ground for the patented Tigers’ triple-option. McKeesport (0-1, 0-1) only gained 121 yards on the ground.

“The thing is, these kids thrive on being disrespected,” Humbert said. “They heard all week about McKeesport dropping down. They know a lot of people didn’t pick them, and they thrive on being the underdog.”

The defense’s biggest stand came when it stopped the Tigers at the 20-yard line on a fourth-and-6 with 18 seconds remaining in the first half.

“They definitely wore on their offensive line,” Humbert said of his defensive line. “We knew the one place we were going to be solid on both sides was the line.”

The score remained 6-0 until Anden capped a nine-play, 53-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring plunge with 9:45 left to go. Anden finished with 80 yards on 19 carries.

“We know they play that offense, and it makes it hard to come back,” Whitlock said. “We knew we had them on that second touchdown, and it really gave us a lot of confidence.”

If there was any doubt left, it was alleviated quickly as Belle Vernon safety Logan Cunningham sealed the deal when he picked off Tigers quarterback Terrence Glenn and raced 63 yards for a touchdown. His lead blocker on the return, Whitlock, came screaming from the other side of the field.

“That was really impressive. You wait until you see it on film,” Humbert said. “But that’s Devin. He’s such a team player, and he’s all about putting the team first. That play embodied that.”

Defensively, the Leopards were led by Cole Weightman, who finished with 15 tackles, and Jack Bryer with 14.

“It all starts with the line and those two middle linebackers coming through the gaps,” Humbert said. “The biggest thing I was worried about with the option was our lateral speed. I couldn’t be happier with the way the defense played. We pride ourselves on defending the triple, and it’s a credit to the coaches. Our defensive coaches do a great job of putting our guys in the right position.

“I think this does set a tone. We pride ourselves on that, and we don’t have the trophies we want, but we’ve won a lot of games the past few seasons and our guys have a lot of pride. I’m happy the kids came out tonight and showed who we are.”

For McKeesport, it’s all about regrouping.

“We have to come out starting tomorrow, refocus and get back to work,” Miller said. “We weren’t ready to go tonight, and it showed. We had some injuries that didn’t help, but I’m not making excuses. They kicked our butts.”

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