South Xtra: West Mifflin, Belle Vernon to test each other
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Travis Snyder and Jim Wheeler are far from finished products.
Snyder, Belle Vernon Area's quarterback, is a sophomore who was pressed into action last season because of injuries. Wheeler, a junior running back for West Mifflin Area, played sparingly a year ago behind 1,400-yard rusher Shamar Greene.
Both had impressive season debuts last week, however, and their talents will be on display Friday night when Belle Vernon plays host to West Mifflin in a Class AAA Big Nine Conference game at James Weir Stadium.
Snyder completed 8 of 14 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns as Belle Vernon opened with a 41-13 road victory against Uniontown. He threw touchdowns passes of 17 and 54 yards to wide receiver Adam Ferita, who had five receptions for 114 yards.
"You don't see too many kids at the Class AAA or Class AAAA levels play quarterback as a freshman but that tells you the kind of talent he has," Belle Vernon coach Aaron Krepps said.
"He's still young and has some things to work on and smooth out, but we feel in time that he has a chance to be an outstanding quarterback."
Snyder is already good enough to get the attention of West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo.
"He's a nice quarterback," Braszo said. "They don't ask him to do too much because he's young but he has a good arm, throws some really nice passes and does a good job of leading their offense.
"I like what I see of him."
Taking some pressure off Snyder is the fact that he has Dorian Johnson, one of the top high school offensive linemen in the nation, protecting his blindside, and an effective runner in sophomore Anthony Levis, who rushed for 120 yards on 13 carries last week. Levis gained 76 of those yards on a touchdown run.
Wheeler led the way in West Mifflin's 52-28 win against Laurel Highlands by rushing for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. His touchdowns covered 5 and 25 yards.
Wheeler is best known for his exploits as a sprinter on West Mifflin's track team. He was a finalist last spring in the 100 and 200 at the PIAA Class AAA Championships.
"He's proven what he can do on the track and he has great speed," Krepps said. "Speed is always difficult to defend and we're going to have to be aware of him at all times."
While Greene could be a battering ram, Wheeler, who is just 5 feet 9 and 165 pounds, is a scatback.
"He might have a harder time gaining some of the tougher yards than Shamar did but, with his speed, he always has the chance for a big gainer if he gets a crease," Braszo said.
Like Belle Vernon, West Mifflin showed a diversified offense in its opener. Senior quarterback Derrick Fulmore had a 65-yard touchdown run and threw a 50-yard scoring pass to junior tight end Marcus Martin.
This game figures to be a sterner test for both teams. West Mifflin led Laurel Highlands, 46-0, at halftime before cruising to a 24-point win while Belle Vernon took control in its victory at Uniontown by bursting to a 27-6 lead.
"We pretty much outmanned Laurel Highlands, but it's going to be different this time," Braszo said. "Belle Vernon has a good team. Aaron is putting that program back up toward the top of the conference where it used to be, and it's going to be tough to go down there and play.
"It should be a good ballgame."
• Game: West Mifflin Area at Belle Vernon Area.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Where: James Weir Stadium
• Skinny: A share of the Big Nine lead is on the line.
First Published September 6, 2012 12:00 am