Nobody in the WPIAL does more with less than Quinton Martin.
A five-star recruit and bona fide phenom who will play football at Penn State next fall, Martin entered Friday night’s de facto Class 3A Interstate Conference championship clash against No. 3 Elizabeth Forward with only 86 touches on offense (62 carries, 24 receptions) through No. 1 Belle Vernon’s first eight games. Mind you, Martin had turned those touches into nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns, but there are other players in the area who have amassed more than half of those opportunities in a single game — or in Ethan Pillar’s case, nearly two-thirds.
As he proved once again on Friday, though, Martin only needs a handful of touches to leave an indelible imprint on any game he plays in.
“We try to be very smart and calculated with it,” said Leopards coach Matt Humbert. “And that’s nothing new. We did that last year. … When you put Quinton out there and two or three people go over there, that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
With the previously unbeaten Warriors (9-1, 4-1) visiting Belle Vernon’s James Weir Stadium, a playoff-type vibe permeated in the air with a packed house on hand at “The Beach.” And with Martin playing his final regular-season home game on senior night, he made sure to give the Leopards faithful a performance they’ll always remember him by.
The 2022 PUP co-Player of the Year touched the ball only eight times in offense, yet he still found a way to amass 206 yards from scrimmage and four total touchdowns as Belle Vernon (8-1, 5-0) rolled to a 49-28 victory. In a dazzling display of his other-worldly talent, Martin carried the ball four times for 40 yards and a TD, caught four passes for 166 yards and two TDs, and he also added a 12-yard interception return for a touchdown to help seal the win late in the fourth quarter.
“It’s very emotional, but it’s exciting at the same time, because I know this team is going to so much farther,” Martin said. “I’m excited for it.”
As is so often the case with “Q-Mart,” each of his scores were of the highlight-reel variety. His first came on a simple slant route that he caught only a few yards past the line of scrimmage before turning on the jets and unleashing a mean stiff arm on his way to an 84-yard TD. He then burst through the teeth of the Elizabeth Forward defense and scampered up the middle for a 36-yard TD run, followed by a 44-yard TD reception where he showcased his elite combination of patience, speed and vision on a seemingly routine screen pass.
Then again, when Martin has the ball in his hands, few plays ever turn out to be “routine.”
“Quinton is a great player,” Warriors coach John DeMarco said after the game. “I coach the secondary, and maybe I didn’t double him up enough. So that’s on me. … You’ve got to account for him on every snap, and a couple times tonight, we didn’t.”
After Friday’s vintage performance, Martin finished the regular season with 66 carries for 644 yards, 28 receptions for 490 yards and 20 total touchdowns. For his career, he is now up to 3,245 yards rushing and 1,188 yards receiving with 74 total TDs — and he’s not finished yet. With the playoffs on the horizon and the Leopards looking like a legitimate contender to win back-to-back WPIAL and PIAA titles, it’s safe to assume Martin could see an uptick in carries and catches from here on out.
Sure, Belle Vernon has the luxury of a three-headed monster in the backfield, with senior Jake Gedekoh and junior Kole Doppelheuer both serving as viable running threats alongside Martin — not to mention 6-5 senior quarterback Braden Laux, who isn’t afraid to tuck it and run. But when the calendar flips to November and each game carries a little extra significance, that’s when Martin takes things to a new level — and Humbert won’t hesitate to put the game on Martin’s shoulders if the situation calls for it.
“It’s all based on what defenses do,” Humbert said. “Our goal is to ratchet it up more with him, but then, we’re not trying to force it. Because we feel we have other guys who can capitalize. … It’s all about how they are going to play him.
“I don’t think it’s how much you use him — it’s how you use him.”
Although he has been a household name in WPIAL circles since his freshman season, Martin’s legend has continued to grow, and he is quickly approaching rarefied air. As a sophomore, Martin helped the Leopards reach the WPIAL Class 4A title game after an undefeated regular season, then he brought Belle Vernon its first WPIAL title since 1995 and its first state title in program history as a junior.
Now, Martin is one of the nation’s most coveted recruits and arguably the centerpiece of Penn State’s 2024 class — and he certainly put on a show for his future college coach James Franklin, who made an appearance at “The Beach” on Friday to absorb his prized prospect’s big game in person.
“Senior night, my senior season, my last home game — this will always be a game to remember,” Martin said.