3 Quinton Martin TDs Leads Belle Vernon Past Laurel Highlands
BELLE VERNON, Pa. — After his breakout sophomore season put him on the national map, it did not take long for Belle Vernon athlete Quinton Martin to show recruiting scouts across the nation that he was back and better than the year prior as helped Belle Vernon (1-0) defeat Laurel Highlands (1-1) 41-20.
His Leopards kicked off to Laurel Highlands and forced a three and out to open the season. Highlands had a muffed snap on the punt, and the Leopards were set up with great field position. Two plays later, and on his first touch of the 2022 season, Quinton Martin was in the end zone, and Belle Vernon was up 7-0.
Martin made a quick counter cut, pressed the line, made a juke, and saw one man touch him before he walked to the end zone with an easy 23-yard touchdown rush.
The Belle Vernon defense forced another quick punt, and this time the Leopards were able to drive. Still, the result was the same. Quinton Martin lined up out-wide and motioned, taking a jet sweep from left to right.
He made one quick juke and shrugged off a tackle that was far too high to affect him, and then raced into the end zone. His speed was too much.
Down 14-0, Highlands knew that they needed to respond. They set up their best drive of the half by far, a 17-play drive that went 77 yards. Still, the drive was aided by four BVA penalties that led to first downs.
BVA was shooting themselves in the foot and then finally stopped the bleeding with impressive four-play stuff from the two-yard line.
Highlands’ defense started to show its toughness, and they even got a missed field goal to help their cause. Still, the ensuring pass after the miss was picked off by Chase Ruokonen, giving BVA the ball right back in field goal range.
Belle Vernon did not mess around, though, and rather had Martin take a snap from the wildcat. This time it was purely outracing the defense to the end zone, as they were confused to see him take the snap. This gave him the hat trick in the first half and had the Leopards heading to the locker room with a 21-0 lead.
The Leopards received the kick to start the half, and Martin limped off after one play with cramps. However, Jake Gedekoh, Chase Ruokonen, and Tanner Moody carried the weight of the loss and helped BVA get into the end zone, Moody finishing it off with a touchdown run from five yards out. This gave the Leopards a 28-0 lead early into the third quarter.
With Martin trying to come back into the game, but unable to, the Mustangs felt it was their time to strike. Rodney Gallagher, who had played everything from quarterback to running back and wide receiver was in at quarterback when he hit two deep passes to Keondre DeShields before finding him in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Gallagher initially scrambled left then cut on a dime, ran back to the right, and saw his man alone in the end zone for six. The play cut the lead to 28-7.
While Martin did return, it was sparingly. Still, his return was notable. His blocking presence helped spring a screen, as Ruoknen ripped off extra yards, and he had a 13-yard run on a drive that ended in a BVA touchdown. Braden Laux took a quarterback draw from a few yards out, and the Leopards went up 34-7 early in the fourth quarter.
Gallagher was not done swinging, though. He scrambled for 17, hit DeShields on a bomb that totaled 50 yards after some YAC by DeShields, and then hit DeShields on a bubble pass from two yards out to cut the lead to 34-13.
The comeback continued on the very next drive. Gallagher completed five straight passes, none prettier than a 20-yard bomb to DeShields, who fought through his man to make a contested catch. It was clear that LH was not going to surrender as they cut the lead down to 34-20. However, there were just four minutes remaining in the game.
Belle Vernon recovered the onside kick and began to kill the clock. They had to convert a 4th down and 1 along the way, but the conversion set up a first down that effectively ended the game. The very next snap, Laux went 44 yards to the house, and the game was put to rest, 41-20.
Next week Belle Vernon has a huge game at rival McKeesport, while Laurel Highlands will host Kiski.