Westmoreland football notebook: Defense driving force for Belle Vernon

Saturday, September 19, 2020 | 6:50 PM

The stage is set for another clash between Class 4A rivals Belle Vernon and Thomas Jefferson.

Both teams won Friday night to move to 2-0 as they get set to square off next Friday night in Jefferson Hills.

Fourth-ranked Belle Vernon has been impressive offensively, but how about that defense? The Leopards have posted two shutouts, the only WPIAL team to accomplish that feat.

They have outscored the opposition, 65-0.

Belle Vernon rolled past West Mifflin, 45-0, on Friday, which followed a 20-0 shutout of McKeesport.

Defensive play of this caliber could be what allows Belle Vernon to avenge a loss to the top-ranked Jaguars in last year’s WPIAL championship.

“Coach (Brett) Berish and Coach O (Jeff Ogrodowsk) are preparing us every week with a great gameplan,” said Leopards junior linebacker Cole Weightman, who had 16 tackles and two sacks Friday. “We’re flying around to the ball. We’re hungry. We play not to give the big play up — stay in your gaps and do your job. That is what coach (Matt) Humbert loves to say.”

Since 2003, the teams have played every year with Thomas Jefferson winning 16 times. Belle Vernon’s last win over the Jaguars was by a 21-17 score in 2017.

Senior Dane Anden ran for 118 yards and two scores, and also caught a touchdown pass, in the win Friday for Belle Vernon. Junior Devin Whitlock, the Leopards’ shifty quarterback, ran a punt back 60 yards for a score.

Humbert’s rise

Humbert took over Belle Vernon in 2014 and has turned the program into a contender, but he did the same thing to a degree when he coached at Ringgold before that.

Humbert, 35, is one of the top young coaches in the WPIAL and his record is proof: He is 83-27 for his career, including a 53-14 mark at Belle Vernon.

He went 30-13 at Ringgold.

Norwin hangs tough

Many people expected Central Catholic to handle Norwin on Friday in the Class 6A conference, especially since the Vikings had beaten the Knights four straight years by an average score of 35-11.

But Norwin put up a fight when the Vikings visited Knights Stadium. The Knights revved up their rushing attack but fell short, 38-28.

Norwin led, 21-14 late in the first half before the Vikings gained some separation.

Nick Fleming scored on two touchdown runs, and Connor Chrisman and Hayden O’Bryon also ran for scores for the Knights (0-2, 0-2). Fleming ran for 100 yards.

Who’s next?

Greensburg Salem finally broke through for its 700th win Friday night after falling short in two previous chances. That makes two Westmoreland programs to reach the milestone — Jeannette has 756 wins. Only 14 programs have won 700 or more statewide.

So who is the next county school in line to get to the 700 mark? The answer is Monessen, which had 668 victories but has started the season 0-2.

Latrobe would be next, by the way. But it has a long way to go with its 455 wins.

Greensburg Salem began playing football in 1894 but did not record its first win until 1901, according to PA Football History.

Sarnic returns

It didn’t look like Franklin Regional’s Mario Sarnic would be returning to football any time soon when he injured his leg last season against Penn-Trafford.

He received medical attention for about 30 minutes before he was taken off the field on a stretcher, loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital for emergency surgery.

He apparently has made a full recovery. The senior receiver had 10 receptions for 112 yards and a TD in the Panthers’ 42-20 win over Fox Chapel.

LV wins

Ligonier Valley went 50 years between football wins in the WPIAL. The Rams rallied from a slow start to down Frazier, 35-19, on Friday for its inaugural victory in its second WPIAL stint.

The Rams left the WPIAL to join the Mountain Conference in 1968 and later moved to the Laurel Highlands Conference before a move to the Heritage Conference of District 6.

Ligonier Valley won 96 times in the last 10 years in District 6. The Rams are 1-1 heading into next Saturday’s recently added game at Western Beaver.

D-1 offers roll in

A pair of area players received scholarship offers to play at the NCAA Division I FCS level.

Jeannette senior James Sanders, a wide receiver and defensive back, was offered by St. Francis (Pa.), and Robert Morris extended an offer to Colton Johns, a senior running back and linebacker from Franklin Regional.

Sanders (5-7, 150), who moved from quarterback to wideout, has three touchdown catches and an interception in two games. His brother, Gio Vonne, is a redshirt junior defensive back at St. Francis.

Johns (6-2, 215), who is one of the top run-stoppers in Class 5A, blocked a punt in Friday’s win over Fox Chapel.

New connection?

Southmoreland rebounded from an opening loss by defeating South Allegheny, 28-21. The Scotties scored all of their points in the second quarter.

In the process, did they find a new pass-and-catch combination? Maybe one that can rival what quarterback Zach Cernuto and Riley Comforti did the last season?

It’s a lot to ask, but Isaac Trout looks up to the task. He pulled in five receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. Cernuto only threw for 129 yards, though, on 7 of 14 passing.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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