Belle Vernon Grinds out 21-17 Win over Central to Clinch State Title Berth
Tagged under: District 6, District 7, Gameday Hub, News, Playoffs
Nate Grella | December 3, 2022
It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. The Belle Vernon Leopards were able to piecemeal together a close 21-17 in a hard-fought game against Central Martinsburg.
Braden Laux rushed for two touchdowns to pull ahead of Central Martinsburg in the second half. Jeff Hoenstine had two touchdowns for Central as well, one on the ground and one through the air.
Belle Vernon started out the gates hot. The Dragons kicked a short opening kick right to Alonzo Wade. Wade found an opening and flew into the endzone. Only ten seconds into the game, the Leopards found themselves up 7-0.
After a quick stop on defense, the Leopards turned on the gas on the offense. Laux found open grass on a read option near midfield and took one to the house to put the Leopards up by two scores halfway through the first quarter.
“It was a great play-fake by our back,” Laux said. “Just reading that defensive end and go running from there.”
Although they were down by two scores to a talented Leopards team, the Dragons weren’t out of it yet. The Dragons battled back in the late first and second quarters. In a pivotal point on 4th and 10, Jeff Hoenstine got the Dragons on the scoreboard with a 21 yard dart to Shalen Yingling to cut the lead in half.
“In the first half we weren’t used to it,” Quinton Martin said. “He’s a scrambling QB, they have really good receivers, they know how to get open.”
A quick defensive stop later, the Dragons continued building momentum. Jeff Hoenstine scampered into the endzone himself from 30 yards out to tie up the game at 14. At the end of the half, the Dragons took the lead with a last second field goal.
To open the second half, the Dragons methodically and dominantly drove down the field. A fumble favored the Leopards to end it. A punt by either team later, and Braden Laux made the Dragons pay again.
Laux scampered 58 yards down the sideline to give the Leopards their best field position of the game. From 2nd and goal from the 5, Laux finished the job to put the Leopards back in front 21-17.
TD run from @BradenLaux14 to go ahead 21-17 in the late 3rd Quarter pic.twitter.com/sXlAPEekCS
— Nathan Grella (@NathanGrella) December 3, 2022
“Braden is a great QB,” Quinton Martin said. “He does everything right, no mistakes. I’m very appreciative of him because in my eyes he won that game for us for sure. He came out, played his heart out, and got the job done.
The Leopards defense bent in the 4th quarter, but didn’t break. The Dragons drove down the field after the touchdown, but a heave to Daugherty from Hoenstine was stolen away by Chase Ruokenen to give the Leopards their second turnover.
“Those two turnovers were huge,” Laux said. “If we didn’t get them we might not win this game.”
With five minutes left, the Dragons had the ball again, but were stonewalled on fourth and short, turning the ball over on downs. Fortunately for the Dragons, two plays later a Belle Vernon fumble gave Central a second chance.
On the Dragons final drive, Jeff Hoenstine was able to maneuver the Dragons down the field thanks to long throws and penalties. But on 4th down, a pass intended for Hunter Smith bounced in and out of the hands. Quinton Martin ran for the Leps first down and clinched a berth in the state championship game.
“This is the first state championship of my high school career,” Martin commented. “I’m just happy to do it with these guys.”
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