A-K Valley high school football notebook: Burrell receiving corps pumps life into offense

Saturday, October 10, 2020 | 9:09 PM

Burrell quarterback Alex Arledge lit up the airways last season, throwing for 2,462 yards and 27 touchdowns.

But at the end of the season, Arledge’s arsenal emptied as the Bucs graduated nearly every skill-position player, and Burrell coach Shawn Liotta had to find a way to replace 3,600 yards of offense.

After their 44-6 win over Deer Lakes on Friday, consider the arsenal reloaded because the senior quarterback found new weapons.

AJ Corrado, who leads the WPIAL with 595 receiving yards and four touchdowns, caught 11 passes — believed to be one reception shy of the Burrell single-game record — for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Liotta said it took Corrado a little bit to get comfortable this season, but the PIAA runner-up wrestler has had more than 100 yards receiving in their past three games.

“If you look at it, AJ hasn’t played football in a long time, so it may have taken him a little bit of time to get comfortable,” Liotta said. “He’s just a tough kid. He’s a good athlete, and he’s just learning how to run routes and get acclimated back to football. He’s done a really good job.”

Senior wide receiver Ian Durci also has impressed this season. He returned from an injury Friday and caught six passes for 70 yards, giving him 187 yards on the season after missing the past two games with an injury.

“He’s the same as AJ: He’s got a lot of size, and he’s tough as nails,” Liotta said. “He’s not as big as AJ in terms of stature, but he gives us a threat as a runner in terms of jet sweeps and things like that. He’s very dynamic once he gets the ball in his hands.”

The key to Burrell continuing its success in the pass game this season will be keeping Durci and Corrado on the field at the same time, which has not happened much because of Durci’s injury. But the Bucs took advantage Friday.

“Getting them both back on the field together has certainly been a big bump for us offensively,” Liotta said.

Durci and Corrado staying healthy will be even more crucial down the stretch. After losing to East Allegheny and North Catholic, two of the top teams in the Allegheny Seven Conference, the Bucs must win out to have a shot at a wild-card playoff spot.

Arledge has completed 52% of his passes this season for 836 yards and five touchdowns.

Proving their worth

Through four weeks, Springdale was undefeated and blowing teams out with an average point differential of 25.8. But Friday, the Dynamos ran into perennial powerhouse Jeannette.

At this time last season, both teams were in a similar situation, and the Jayhawks beat Springdale, 43-0. This season, the Dynamos pushed Jeannette to the brink and built a 21-0 lead. No. 3 Jeannette is a powerhouse for a reason, though, and it erased that lead on the way to a 36-28 victory.

The Dynamos, however, earned respect and proved what they can do in a big game.

“I think this shows that we can play with anyone in single-A,” Springdale coach Seth Napierkowski said. “Jeannette is ranked, and they took Clairton to the brink and they are the No. 1 team in the state. So to be able to play with teams like that, we are just showing where we belong in this classification that has so many great teams, and I think right now we should be considered one of them.”

Next man up

When starting quarterback Justin Rice couldn’t go for Fox Chapel on Friday against Kiski Area, coach Tom Loughran adopted the next-man-up mentality. So did junior Collin Dietz.

The 5-foot-8, 180-pound quarterback led the Foxes to their second straight victory. In a crucial Northeast Conference matchup with the Cavaliers, Dietz completed 11 of his 36 pass attempts for 267 yards and four touchdowns against one interception.

He completed touchdown passes of 17, 16, 54, and 66 yards. Three of those touchdowns went to junior receiver Lorenzo Jenkins. His performance also came a week after Rice threw for 174 yards and five touchdowns against Shaler.

First time in a long time

No. 4 Plum has been setting new highs all season, continuing with Friday’s a 20-7 win over Hampton. The Mustangs are 5-0, and when it comes to their next win, well, they haven’t been undefeated this late into the season in a long time.

If the Mustangs take down winless Knoch next Friday, they will be 6-0 for the first time since 1976, which was the only year they completed an undefeated regular season.

Bounce-back week

After three straight losses, Highlands got back on track Friday with a 48-14 win over Indiana.

Sophomore quarterback Chandler Thimons completed 13 of his 19 passes for 183 yards and three touchdowns, and Brock White carried the ball 14 times for 88 yards and a touchdown. The Rams travel to Armstrong next week.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

More High School Football

8 WPIAL all-stars selected for 67th annual Big 33 Football Classic
Burrell football coach Shawn Liotta named general manager for USA Football U20 team
WPIAL reveals Aliquippa’s 5A conference, but football coach says ‘it’s not settled’
WPIAL says Butler football must take conference schedule, reviving years-long dispute
WPIAL sets conference, section alignment for next 2 fall seasons