BELLE VERNON – Before gearing up for its first-place showdown with Ringgold later this week, Hunter Martin recorded a hat trick as Belle Vernon defeated Trinity 8-0 in a Section 3-AAA match on Senior Night at James Weir Stadium.
“We started a little different lineup for Senior Night and had guys in different positions,” said Belle Vernon coach Rob Miele. “We didn’t play like I wanted us to in the first half, but we played a much better brand in the second half.
“I’m hoping we saved some goals for Thursday, but Trinity is a much-improved team.”
After taking a 2-0 lead into halftime Belle Vernon (10-1-1, 6-1-1) used three second-half goals to pull away from the Hillers.
“We created some scoring chances in the first half against a great team, and that is how you win games,” said Trinity head coach Ryan Julian. “Considering that we play four freshmen and four sophomores in the starting lineup, I would say that we are doing pretty well for our age. We just want to get better every day as we gear up for the playoffs.”
It was the second time in Martin’s career that he recorded a hat trick.
“My teammates set me up really well and I was able to finish the shots,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep this thing going.”
The Leopards, who have now recorded their eighth shutout in a row, haven’t allowed a goal in the last 692 minutes of action. They have also outscored their opponents 67-3 this season.
“It has been unbelievable and the team has bought in,” Miele said. “It can be tough sometimes for the offensive players because sometimes they get the glory and stats. At some point, we are going to give up a goal and I am hoping it ends before we get into a really, really big game because I don’t want it to be a shell-shock issue.”
The contest was a tactical chess match in the first half as shots on goal were scarce for both teams prior to halftime, each having controlled a portion of the play.
Belle Vernon was finally rewarded for outshooting the Hillers early – seven shots to Trinity’s two – when freshman Nick Nagy scored off an assists from Jackson Guess to put the Leopards ahead 1-0.
Martin doubled the Leopards lead with his first goal of the game when he took a pass from Guess and scored with five minutes left to play in the first half.
The flood gates opened in the second half when Belle Vernon netted six goals, including two from Markello Apodiakos. Mark Lovett and Logan Perez also scored for the Leopards.
The two goals for Apodiakos brings his total to 24 on the season.
Guess had four assists for Belle Vernon.
Trinity still has a firm grasp on the final playoff spot in the section, despite dropping to 4-4 and 7-5 overall. The Hillers will continue moving closer to locking up a playoff berth Thursday when they host Uniontown.
If the Leopards defeat Ringgold, who it tied 0-0 Sept. 19, it will take over first place in the section.
“For all intent and purpose, whoever wins will win the section,” said Miele. “It is the same thing as last year. We will be ready and they will be as well.”