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Tuesday December 6 2022
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Battle of the Unbeatens

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Over the summer, Belle Vernon Area upgraded their football field to a gold surface that had the Mon-Valley buzzing. Now, as the warm weather turns brisk, the only buzz is about the undefeated team playing on that gold field.

The Belle Vernon Leopards have yet to lose on their new playing surface. The Leopards and their rival Ringgold Rams are the only unbeaten teams in the Triple-A Big 10 conference.

That will end on Friday when Ringgold visits James Weir Stadium to face the Leopards.

Head coach Matt Humbert is in his second season at Belle Vernon after spending the previous four at Ringgold.

“A lot of those kids I coached and watched them transition, and I’m really proud of what they’ve become,” Humbert said. “I don’t feel any pressure playing against Ringgold. If anything, I’m happy they can continue what we created and are successful.”

Humbert was expecting longtime powerhouse Thomas Jefferson to be his team’s toughest competition this season, but Ringgold and Belle Vernon both beat TJ in the season’s first two weeks.

Ringgold has what Thomas Jefferson does not: running back Chacar Berry.

Berry, who ran for over 1,400 yards as a junior, will challenge the Leopards defense. The 5-7 senior is currently fourth in Triple-A with 660 rushing yards through Week 5.

Brenden Small adds 11.3 yards per carry from the Rams backfield, while junior quarterback George Martin and wide receiver Octavius Vassar lead the passing game. Martin has thrown for 516 yards on the season with six touchdowns, and perhaps most importantly, he has not thrown an interception.

The Leopards defense will be ready, with senior defensive ends Mike Semancik and Trevor Gush book-ending nose tackle Naquwan Dixon. Noah Bukowski and Collin Johnston are the playmakers at outside linebacker while Jake Powell, Phil Taylor and Cameron Quinto lead the secondary.

Senior Nick Sweitzer and junior Jake Herron anchor an offensive line that will be tasked with protecting junior quarterback Mike Fine and senior running back Luke Durigon.

Fine guides the Leopards’ offensive attack with 324 rushing yards and 197 in the air. Durigon compliments his quarterback, providing a quick-strike threat from the backfield.

Humbert and the Leopards have one goal right now.

“It’s gratifying to see the hard work pay off, especially under the Friday night lights,” he said. “There’s still a lot of unfinished business but we’ll just take one week at a time and hopefully make it to the championship.”

Friday’s homecoming game will also be a celebration of Belle Vernon Area’s 50th year anniversary. In addition, Leopards wrestler Jarod Verkleeren will be honored with the CoGo’s Unsung Hero Award before the game.

Kickoff at James Weir Stadium is at 7:00 p.m.

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