Burrell football is back on the map

Saturday, October 26, 2019 | 11:08 PM

Despite a 56-32 season ending loss to Big East Conference runner-up Derry on Friday night, it’s clear Burrell is a team on the rise in Class 3A.

One year after going 2-8, where second-year coach Shawn Liotta at times dressed 17-18 players a game, the Bucs (6-4) produced their first winning record since 2012 and won five of their final seven games. The Bucs finished tied for fourth in the Big East and missed the WPIAL playoffs on a tiebreaker with Mt. Pleasant.

“I told the kids I believe we are the most improved team in 3A football,” Liotta said. “That’s a credit to our kids and that’s a credit to how they worked and I am so proud of everyone involved with our program because we have changed Burrell football.”

From the beginning of the season, there was a buzz around the Burrell football program. In his first year at the helm, Liotta struggled to implement his fast-paced, run-and-shoot type offense without a true quarterback.

But, the arrival of junior Alex Arledge, a transfer from Central Catholic, signified a changing of the guard. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder opened up the offense and displayed a powerful arm all season.

Arledge threw for over 350 yards four times this season and before his final passing attempt Friday, he hadn’t throw an interception since their Week 2 matchup against Elizabeth Forward, a streak of 187 pass attempts.

To complement the pure passer, Liotta also suited up a number of weapons who helped put Burrell back on the map.

Senior wide receiver Seth Fischbach was Arledge’s primary target, catching 50 passes for 1,022 yards and 12 touchdowns. Mikey Scherer was also a key offensive component, running for 1,049 yards and eight touchdowns.

“The numbers we put up were video game-like numbers this year,” Liotta said. “I’m not sure how many teams around the WPIAL can boast about a 2,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard receiver, and a 1,000-yard rusher.”

Fischbach and Scherer were the statistical leaders, but they weren’t the only players helping bring the program along.

Players such as Logan Phillips, Zach Miller, Ricky Feroce, Trent Valovchik, Jack Henderson and Dom Holmes all contributed in their own way, and Liotta said their season wouldn’t have been possible without them.

“The kids last year put the program on stable footing,” Liotta said. “But these kids this year took it to the next level where we are now competing with just about everyone we play on a week in, week out basis.”

On top of their statistical achievements this year, Liotta highlighted the small things that allowed the program to flourish in his second season.

A win in the “Battle of the Bypass” over Valley, defeating Freeport for the first time since 2011 and the Bucs producing two shutouts in the same season for the first time since 2005, were just some of the few that he mentioned.

“I look at this year and say to myself, look at all the individual goals that were reached,” Liotta said. “There was Valley, then Deer Lakes, then Freeport, and things just continued to pile up. We came into Friday after winning five of the last six, and I’m glad they were able to enjoy themselves this year.”

For the first time in a long time, the Bucs were in the playoff conversation until the final week of the season. Liotta will only lose eight seniors from this year’s team, and he’s excited about what the future holds.

“It’s a great time to be a Buc, it’s a fun time to be a Buc,” Liotta said. “If you’re at the games, you can feel the excitement in the stadium. You can feel the student section. The community is behind us, and they are here to support or team win or lose.”

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


More 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
Drive to improve, helpful mentors lead Franklin Regional grad to Division I football