Trib HSSN Football Player of the Week for 2021 Week 4

Sunday, September 26, 2021 | 10:31 PM

He scored the tying touchdown with under five minutes left in the game, then he ran 40 yards for the winning TD with under 10 seconds remaining in a battle between the two top teams in Class 4A of the WPIAL.

Belle Vernon senior quarterback Devin Whitlock may not be going to Disney World, but he is the Trib HSSN Player of the Week.

Whitlock scored twice in the final five minutes to help his Leopards knock off defending champion Thomas Jefferson, 28-21, in Week 4 in front of a standing room only crowd at Belle Vernon.

“Every win is a big win, but this was special on a stage like that,” Belle Vernon coach Matt Humbert said. “Devin was the piston that fired the engine, but there were a lot of unsung heroes of that game that contributed.”

Humbert said he wasn’t expecting it, but he wasn’t shocked when Whitlock ran 40 yards with the game-winning score with only 4 seconds remaining when the game looked like it was headed to overtime.

“I had the utmost belief that he was the number that we call in that situation,” Humbert said. “We wanted to take every chance to win it in regulation. We tried to spread them out and utilize his explosiveness.”

The game was filled with big plays for Belle Vernon with different stars shining in the two halves.

Sophomore sensation Quinton Martin scored twice in the first half on a 50-yard run and an 87-yard kickoff return. However, early in the second half, he was injured and carted off the field. Martin will have an MRI on Tuesday.

“He is feeling good though,” Humbert said.

That is when Whitlock became the lead actor in this scintillating tale for the Leopards.

Most of his 163 yards rushing and both touchdowns came in the second half.

“He stepped up in a big way,” Humbert said. “So did our running back and fullback. They never skipped a beat.”

Whitlock only threw for 44 yards against Thomas Jefferson, but he has thrown for 444 yards and three touchdowns this season. He also leads the team in rushing with 532 yards and has scored nine touchdowns.

“He’s a dual threat and throws really well,” Humbert said. “His strengths are his elusiveness, toughness and his calm, cool determination.”

Whitlock may have to shoulder the load again in Week 5 when another undefeated Class 4A Big Eight Conference foe comes to Belle Vernon as the Leopards square off with Laurel Highlands.

“Beyond excited to host the ‘Stangs at the beach,” Humbert said, referencing his stadium’s nickname because of the gold turf. “We’re blessed to be playing another meaningful game against a perfect record team. Our kids are really juiced up to play them and especially (Rodney) Gallagher. We have another opportunity to protect the beach.”

WPIAL Week 4 Honorable Mentions

Gannon Carothers – Central Catholic

Call it want you want, the work-horse or the bell-cow, Gannon Carothers was all of that and more on Friday. He may not be a farm boy, but he was toiling away at North Allegheny for Central Catholic in Week 4.

In an early Class 6A showdown and a rematch of the 2020 final against North Allegheny, Carothers carried the ball 33 times for the Vikings, grinding out 164 yards on the ground.

The senior also scored on touchdown runs of 8 and 3 yards in the first half as the visiting Vikings once again knocked off the Tigers, 24-7, to stay in a tie for first place heading into Week 5.

Robbie Labuda – Mt. Pleasant

After losing back-to-back games in which they only scored six total points, Mt. Pleasant needed an offensive spark heading into its Class 3A Interstate Conference opener Friday.

Thankfully for the Vikings, junior running back Robbie Labuda brought his torch to the game against visiting Southmoreland.

Labuda rushed for 193 yards and scored bookend touchdowns on runs of 5 and 20 yards, plus he caught a 17-yard scoring pass from junior quarterback Tyler Reese as the Vikings beat the Scotties, 34-7.

Damani Stafford – California

In case you missed it, a heavyweight battle of the backs broke out in the Class A Tri-County South Conference game between California and Mapletown, and it produced a thriller.

While Maples junior running back Landan Stevenson struck early on a 59-yard scoring run and ended up with impressive stats of 261 rushing yards and three touchdowns, it was Trojans senior Damani Stafford who also had impressive numbers and left with his arms raised.

Stafford rushed for 208 yards and scored four touchdowns on runs of 2, 14, 4 and the game-winning score from 11-yards out with four minutes left as California edged Mapletown, 34-28.

2021 HSSN Players of the Week

Week 3 – Trenton Carter, Carmichaels

Week 2 – Abraham Ibrahim, Chartiers Valley

Week 1 – Graham Hancox, Seneca Valley

Week Zero – Carson Davidson, Blackhawk

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