After thriving in 2A, Burgettstown looks like big fish in Class A pond

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020 | 11:23 PM


For nine weeks in the 2019 football season, Burgettstown was the class of 2A.

The Blue Devils ended the regular season with a perfect 9-0 record and a Three Rivers Conference championship after a Week 8 showdown victory over Brentwood.

However, the Burgettstown dream season ended with a nightmare on the opening night of the WPIAL playoffs as the third-seeded Blue Devils were stunned at home by Riverside in overtime, 42-35.

“At the time, the loss stung a great deal, but once removed from the immediate situation, you look back and evaluate the entirety of the season,” Burgettstown coach Mark Druga said.

Over the last two years, the Blue Devils program has gone 19-2 with back-to-back conference championships as the smallest school in the conference. It was the most successful two-year run by Burgettstown in nearly a half-century.

“The season was very successful. I cannot ask any more from my staff and the effort given by those young men on the field,” Druga said.

Now the focus switches to a new year, a new decade, a new classification and a new conference for Burgettstown with six starters back on offense and five on defense.

“To continue to win and remain a very competitive program, we must overcome the new challenges faced due to the covid crisis,” Druga said. “We have lost a great deal of time in the weight room, skill and line sessions during the spring and spring ball. We must maximize our time together, with weight lifting outside, speed drills, conditioning, and most importantly, continuing to grow as a unit. I have had many great senior classes, and this group will continue to be a strong senior led team.”

The 2019 senior class included the team’s leading passer and rusher in Jake Lounder and the team’s top receiver and scorer in Seth Phillis.

Some of the skilled players set to help fill those large voids include senior running back and linebacker Shane Kemper, senior running back and linebacker Alex Mitko and senior wide receiver and safety Cole Shergi.

“Yes, we did lose some key players from last year, but I’m not worried,” Shergi said. “We have younger guys with great talent that are ready to play. I have confidence in the young guys.”

Up front, the line will be anchored by senior Jonathan Baronick, who Druga called one of the top linemen in the classification, and senior offensive lineman and linebacker Turner Lehman.

Druga realizes that staying healthy and getting the inexperienced players up to speed are the keys to another successful season.

“My biggest concern is experienced depth,” he said. “It is imperative our core starters remain healthy and our younger guys learn our system quickly. I am confident my coaching staff will have our younger guys prepared when they will be called upon.”

In what has been a crazy offseason to say the least, Druga keeps it simple when looking forward to this season.

“During this very chaotic time due to the coronavirus, the most exciting thing heading into camp is the ability to have a chance to play football on Friday nights,” he said. “To be able to play is crucial not only for all the participants including players, cheerleaders, the band and referees, but the entire community.”

Burgettstown moves down to Class A this season, entering the Big Seven Conference.

“I think the Big Seven is the most competitive Class A conference,” Druga said. “Clairton and Jeannette are the traditional top two teams in A, but OLSH was the WPIAL champs two years ago and Rochester played them in the finals two years ago.

“Shenango has a very strong team returning, Cornell had an unbelievable season last year, Union has one of the best linemen in all of the WPIAL, and Northgate and Fort Cherry have incredible traditions.”

In an offseason of uncertainty, Shergi shares a popular sentiment about the upcoming campaign.

“I’m looking forward to just being out underneath the lights again,” he said. “There is no better feeling.”

Schedule

Coach: Mark Druga

2019 record: 9-1, 7-0 in Class 2A Three Rivers Conference

All-time record: 440-485-39

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, Fort Cherry*, 7

9.18, at OLSH*, 7

9.25, Rochester*, 7

10.2, at Shenango*, 7

10.9, at Cornell*, 7

10.17, Northgate*, 1:30

10.23, at Union*, 7

*Class A Big Seven Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Jake Lounder*

32-76, 545 yards, 9 TDs

Rushing: Jake Lounder*

95-603, 13 TDs

Receiving: Seth Phillis*

11-215 yards, 9 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• Burgettstown has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs five straight years. In the 13 previous years, the Blue Devils only made the postseason twice.

• Mark Druga is in his sixth year as head coach of the Blue Devils. His older brother Rich was the Burgettstown head coach from 1998-2000.

• Burgettstown has won back-to-back 2A-Three Rivers Conference titles and the Blue Devils have won 18 straight regular season games.

• It has been nearly 80 years since Burgettstown captured a district title. Burgettstown beat Crafton, 34-7, to win the 1941 WPIAL Class AA crown.

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