Indiana bounces Belle Vernon
In a game featuring 818 yards of offense and 80 points, it was a quartet of defensive plays that made the final difference.
With less than three minutes left, Indiana’s Jake Spencer stopped Belle Vernon’s Matt Green behind the line of scrimmage twice and hit quarterback Matt Naylor on fourth down, preserving the Little Indians’ 42-38 victory over Belle Vernon in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday at James Weir Stadium.
Indiana will face Montour, a 21-7 winner over West Mifflin, in the second round next week.
When Spencer hit Naylor’s arm, it iced a game that saw six lead changes in the final 28 minutes.
“I told the guys it was going to be a slugfest,” Indiana coach Mark Zilinskas said. “It’s going to come down to that back-alley mentality and who can stand the longest at the end when you’re exchanging blows.”
If Belle Vernon was Rocky Balboa, Indiana (8-2) played the role of Apollo Creed too well.
Four of its six touchdowns came on plays of 50 yards or more, showing the speed and quick-strike mentality against a defense that ranked 19th in the WPIAL in yards allowed during the regular season and first among Class AAA playoff qualifiers.
Quarterback Kyle Edgar needed to complete only 7 of 12 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns, including a play-action swing pass to Tyrayl Veney that went for a 57-yard score with 3:15 left.
“Indiana’s got a great offense, and I’ve known that,” Belle Vernon coach Aaron Krepps said. “You see it on film; they have a ton of big-play potential.
“I was a bit surprised that they were able to put that much on us. We had a lot of mistakes. That’s what it was — coverage, blown assignments. It’s disappointing in that regard.”
Belle Vernon (5-5) rallied after Indiana scored on its first two possessions and threatened to take over the game.
Led by Matt Green, who finished with 189 yards on 32 carries in his finest performance since returning from a sprained right ankle, the Leopards scored 24 points in the second quarter to take their first lead.
But every time Belle Vernon took the lead, Indiana answered.
“We’ve made a ton (of big plays) all year long,” Zilinskas said. “Our kids responded with a fight mentality. We just have to keep responding and keep responding and keep responding. And that’s what happened tonight.”