Trib HSSN football team of the week for 2023 Week 13

Sunday, November 26, 2023 | 8:29 PM

The year-long battle to climb the hill and be the only one standing at the top in the end is the ultimate golden experience.

It’s one thing to do that once, but to do it again can be very challenging.

Three WPIAL football teams were able to repeat this season — North Allegheny in Class 6A, Aliquippa three-peated in 4A and Belle Vernon in 3A.

The Leopards not only captured their second straight district crown, they did it against the same team they beat in last year’s 3A title game, Avonworth.

“It’s always nice to go back-to-back,” Belle Vernon coach Matt Humbert said. “When we finished up last year and set our sights for this season, it’s been a year-long process to get back to where we are right now. It’s kind of neat to see when kids and coaches put a goal in place and see that goal achieved. It’s a gratifying feeling.”

The Leopards were runaway winners at Acrisure Stadium, shutting out previously undefeated Avonworth, 26-0.

“The district championships in District 7 are kind of unique,” Humbert said. “We’re very fortunate in the idea that we get to play at Acrisure Stadium, a professional venue. It makes it a little extra special when you get to play a football game at that facility.”

The Leopards won gold with a suffocating defense that only allowed more than one score in a game three times in 12 contests.

“If you look at last year, our strength was our defense,” Humbert said. “That’s always been there; our defense has always been stout. To hold Avonworth scoreless was pretty gratifying in its own right. My coaches do a great job, and I’d like to think we pride ourselves on an emphasis of defense. It’s the priority in everything we do and the first thing I emphasize first and foremost, and I’m an offensive guy.”

Senior quarterback Braden Laux threw for 155 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 53 yards and two scores.

However, the total team effort is what Humbert really enjoyed about the victory.

“This was such a team performance,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever had a game as unique in terms of the contributions of so many people. I’m not just talking about the starters; I’m talking about guys that might have secondary roles on the team. Everybody had a stake and some stock in the game.”

Senior Quinton Martin was held to 71 total yards, but his legacy continues to shine as he winds down his scholastic career before heading to Penn State.

“Just look at the kid,” Humbert said. “When you look at his resume, he had the only offensive touchdown in the Neumann-Goretti game last year. When you look last year against Avonworth, he accounted for every one of those points. When you look at him and the big plays he has had in the big games against McKeesport and Thomas Jefferson, his thumbprints are all over those games. The flip side is he’s the ultimate team player.”

Now, the Leopards must re-focus as they hope to also successfully defend their 2022 PIAA championship.

“I think we can kind of use last year’s experiences and last year’s situations to pretty much realize that you just flip the page,” Humbert said. “The biggest thing is you don’t have a lot of time to savor it. It’s a 24-hour deal. We gave the kids 24 hours to celebrate, and then we moved on. They can reflect and ponder that in January.”

The next hurdle toward repeating double gold for Belle Vernon (11-1) is a matchup with District 10 champion Hickory (11-2) on Friday at North Allegheny.

“They have a good tailback, a good quarterback who likes to run the football, their receiver plays impressive, they have some guys who are explosive and dynamic,” Humbert said. “Defensively, their secondary is very good. I think the biggest thing that jumps out to me is their team speed, and they utilize their weapons the right way.”

Week 13 Honorable Mention

North Allegheny Tigers

North Allegheny continued its dominance over McDowell with a PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal rout. The WPIAL champion Tigers were once again led by senior quarterback Logan Kushner, who threw for 176 yards and three touchdowns. Khiryn Boyd had a touchdown reception and scoring run, and Evan Lyon caught a pair of TD passes in a 41-7 win over the District 10 champion Trojans. The win improved NA’s all-time record to 12-0 against McDowell.

Peters Township Indians

There was no WPIAL championship letdown for Peters Township, making its first appearance in the state quarterfinals. The Indians scored all 13 second-half points to blow open a tight game and eliminate District 10 champion Cathedral Prep, 33-14. Peters sophomore quarterback Nolan DiLucia hit on 14 of 32 passes for 301 yards and touchdown tosses to Ethan Wertman and Thomas Aspinall, plus Indians kicker Carter Shanafelt booted four field goals in the victory.

Westinghouse Bulldogs

For a second straight year, City League champion Westinghouse has taken care of business in November football and is about to play December football. In the PIAA quarterfinals, Westinghouse junior quarterback Khalil Green connected on 11 of 17 passes for 239 yards and threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score in the 36-20 road win at District 10 champion Farrell.

2023 HSSN Teams of the Week

Week 12 – Avonworth Antelopes

Week 11 – Beaver Falls Tigers

Week 10 – Deer Lakes Lancers

Week 9 – South Side Rams

Week 8 – Central Valley Warriors

Week 7 – Mars Fightin’ Planets

Week 6 – Pine-Richland Rams

Week 5 – Moon Tigers

Week 4 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars

Week 3 – Knoch Knights

Week 2 – Waynesburg Central Raiders

Week 1 – Aliquippa Quips

Week Zero – Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils


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