PIAA 3A Semifinal Preview: Belle Vernon vs. Central

The Leopards meet the Dragons for the right to play for a state championship

Fri Dec 02, 2022 - 3:35PM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Jake Gedekoh and Belle Vernon clashes with Central in the PIAA 3A semifinals at Central Cambria High School.Jake Gedekoh and Belle Vernon clashes with Central in the PIAA 3A semifinals at Central Cambria High School.

Last Updated: Fri Dec 02, 2022 - 3:40PM

PIAA Class 3A Semifinals: Belle Vernon (10-2) vs. Central (12-2) at Central Cambria High School 7 p.m.

Pregame at 6:30 p.m. on WSN VIDEO & NFHS Network - WATCH LIVE

WSN Broadcasters: Sean Meyers and Jack Ridenour

Broadcast Information: The game will be streamed on live video by the Westmoreland Sports Network. However, due to a broadcast rights agreement with the PIAA, the game must be streamed through the NFHS Network.

About the Leopards: Belle Vernon Area captured the second WPIAL football title in program history last Friday, as the top-seeded Leopards defeated No. 2 Avonworth 24-7 at Acrisure Stadium. After a scoreless opening quarter, Avonworth gained the lead in the first minute of the second quarter, courtesy of a 1-yard touchdown run by Brandon Biagiarelli. The Leopards responded by scoring 24 unanswered points, however. On the ensuing drive, Belle Vernon Area got on the board on Willie Schwerha’s 31-yard field goal. BVA took the lead late in the half, as QB Braden Laux connected with Quinton Martin on a 32-yard touchdown pass. Martin added two more scores in the second half, as he produced a spectacular 51-yard punt return TD in the third, and sealed the outcome with a 45-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth. Martin finished with 60 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving, Laux passed for 41 yards and added 33 yards on the ground, and Jake Gedekoh contributed 43 yards rushing. Adam LaCarte and Parker Jewell paced the defense with nine tackles apiece, while Colton Lee and Tanner Moody each posted eight stops. For the season, Martin has amassed 120 carries for 1,169 yards and 22 scores on the ground, along with 26 receptions for 403 yard and five receiving scores, all team-highs. Laux has hit 63-of-116 passes for 944 yards, with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, while he’s contributed 279 yards and six scores on the ground. Additionally, Gedekoh has compiled 76 carries for 659 yards and 12 rushing scores, while Chase Ruokonen has posted 17 catches for 308 yards and three scores. LaCarte paces the BVA defense with 62 tackles, Laux has a team-leading five sacks, and Alonzo Wade has snagged four interceptions. Riding the nine-game winning streak, BVA has outscored its opponents on the campaign by a margin of 454-97.

About the Dragons: Central Martinsburg cruised to a 35-7 victory at Grove City High School last week in the PIAA quarterfinals. The District 6 champion Dragons continued to compile eye-popping passing statistics, as quarterback Jeff Hoenstine hit 25-of-32 passes for 318 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Hoenstine also led the team with 69 yards rushing on 13 attempts. His top target through the air was Eli Lingenfelter, who caught a dozen passes for 174 yards and three TDs, while Rylan Daugherty added five grabs for 65 yards and Hunter Smith had four catches for 26 yards and a score. Defensively, Smith led the charge with 10 tackles, while Hoenstine contributed nine stops. For the season, Hoenstine has connected on 278-of-391 passes for 3,768 yards, with 50 touchdowns and five interceptions, while he’s rushed 127 times for 716 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Lingenfelter has recorded 95 catches for 1,610 yards and 27 touchdowns. Smith, meanwhile, has contributed 51 catches for 571 yards and six touchdowns, while also rushing 72 times for 479 yards and six scores on the ground. Kade Rhule (501 yards rushing) and Shalen Yingling (498 yards receiving) are among the other offensive standouts for the Dragons, who average 37.1 points per game. Defensively, Smith has amassed 123 tackles and six sacks, Hoenstine has 118 stops, Jason Clark has notched 11 sacks, and Lingenfelter has intercepted five passes. The Dragons have won 11 games in a row. Dave Baker, who has more than 50 years of total coaching experience, guides Central Martinsburg.

About the Matchup: Belle Vernon Area has competed in just one state playoff contest, a loss to Sharon in 1995. Central Martinsburg reached the PIAA semifinals last year, a 35-21 loss against Central Valley. The Dragons also have suffered state playoff defeats against Aliquippa and Beaver Falls within the past decade. The winner advances to the PIAA Class 3A Championship at Cumberland Valley High School on Dec. 10, and will play either District 12 champion Neumann Goretti or Wyomissing from District 3.