Burrell-Freeport matchup loaded with playoff implications

Wednesday, October 9, 2019 | 5:03 PM

Friday night’s WPIAL Class 3A Big East Conference matchup between Burrell and Freeport will pit two teams against each other that have a lot on the line.

On one side there is Burrell (4-3, 3-3), a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2012 and hasn’t had a winning record in just as long. But behind second-year coach Shawn Liotta, the Bucs are a program on the rise, and with a win, they could be in the driver’s seat to make the playoffs.

“This would mean everything,” Burrell senior Logan Phillips said. “I haven’t been to the playoffs in the four years I’ve been here, and the school hasn’t been there since 2012. I think a win right now would be absolutely amazing.”

Then there is Freeport (3-3, 3-3). It comes into the matchup on a three-game winning streak after starting off the season in the opposite direction. A loss would knock the Yellowjackets out of playoff contention, but they are almost back to full health and are just hitting their stride.

“We’ve upped our game, and everyone has been giving their best effort,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “It’s not about the win or loss. I mean, you want to win, but it’s about how you compete. You have to have pride in that and these kids do. So I just expect that week in and week out, and they have done that this whole year, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

With both of their seasons on the line, Friday night’s contest will be an interesting one because they have both shown the ability to put points on the scoreboard, as well as keeping teams off of it.

Freeport’s senior quarterback Garrett Schaffhauser has been a dual-threat problem for opposing defenses. He has 997 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and has carried the ball 91 times for 374 yards and seven touchdowns.

Schaffhauser is also supported by a solid cast of receivers and running backs. Senior Ricky Hunter has 376 yards and six touchdowns on the ground and sophomore Brodey Woods has 506 yards of total offense and six touchdowns.

With several different players that can hurt them, Liotta knows that his team has to be ready for everything.

“We know what they are about,” Liotta said. “They are a team that is tenacious and they play so hard. We have to match their effort, their intensity, and we have to play sound disciplined football. But we have to be able to move the ball and stop the run.”

The Bucs bring just as much firepower. Junior signal caller Alex Arledge is ranked fifth in the WPIAL in passing yards with 1,517 and has 15 touchdowns. He also has an arsenal of weapons to throw to.

Senior wide out Seth Fischbach has 36 catches for 698 yards and nine touchdowns. Zach Miller has 19 catches for 366 yards and six touchdowns. Then there’s Phillips, who has been dangerous in both the passing and the running game this season.

The Bucs’ offense is capped off by running back Mike Scherer, who has 679 yards and four touchdowns on 129 carries, and having Liotta on the sideline gives Gaillot a lot to prepare for.

“There’s absolutely nothing you can count out,” Gaillot said. “(Liotta) is a great offensive mind, and I respect him and his staff, and I’m amazed with what he does and what he comes up with. Those are the ‘what ifs,’ because you can game plan all you want, but you probably won’t come close to what is in his mind.”

In the past 12 years, the Bucs have only beaten the Yellowjackets once and have been outscored, 361-141. So, heading into Friday, the Bucs are ready to change the tide.

“We have not fared well against them in the past,” Liotta said. “So we understand what we are going to have to do on Friday.”

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

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