Burrell looking to ‘seize the moment’ under 3rd-year coach

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020 | 12:01 AM


Since taking over the Burrell football program three years ago, coach Shawn Liotta has been trying to create a buzz around the Bucs.

By the end of last season, players, coaches, administrators and fans could hear that buzz as loud as ever. The Bucs recorded their first winning season since 2012 and barely missed out on a playoff appearance. Now, they are looking to build on that progress.

“That was huge. I mean, look at the strides that we’ve made,” Liotta said. “We haven’t accomplished everything that we’ve wanted to yet, but that is in the process of building a program. We are just really excited with where we are at, where we are headed, and we think we’re only at the brink of where we are going.”

The biggest challenge for Burrell heading into the shortened 2020 season will be filling the holes left by a large senior class. Eight grads produced 3,600 yards of offense and 36 touchdowns last season. The only major contributors returning are senior quarterback Alex Arledge, who threw for 2,462 yards and 27 touchdowns, and four of the five offensive linemen.

But over the past three seasons, Liotta has been building an arsenal of players and he is excited to see what they can do when given the opportunity.

“We have some bullets left in the gun, and we have some guys that have been waiting to go out and do something,” Liotta said. “So it’s going to be up to them to go out and seize the moment. We have a lot of talent, so we’ll see who steps up and emerges in those roles.”

When given the chance in their limited roles last year, senior wide receiver Ian Durci and junior running back Caden DiCaprio took advantage. Durci carried the ball six times for 52 yards and one touchdown while averaging 8.66 yards per rush. Behind senior running back Mike Scherer, who tallied 191 carries, DiCaprio was the next leading rusher with 13 carries for 82 yards and one touchdown.

Over the summer, Arledge developed a strong relationship with his new core group of skill players, and he’s excited for what his senior season could bring, especially in the type of offense the Bucs run.

“It’s going be a big adjustment, and we are losing a lot of star players from last year,” Arledge said. “But we have a lot of athletes, some new kids that have played before and are playing again now. We’ve been putting in work all offseason, though, and we are going to be ready.”

Although Durci’s role was small last year, he is ready to take advantage of his opportunity this season and lead the younger players on the roster.

“It’s definitely going to be tough, but I have to step up and do it,” Durci said. “Hopefully, the younger guys can follow my lead, and we can get stuff done.”

The program-building year helped push the roster to close to 50 players. Now, Burrell is looking to take the next step by punching a ticket to the playoffs. Liotta said the key to accomplishing that goal is all about seizing the moment.

“There are going to be opportunities that present themselves, and you have to seize those opportunities or you might end up on the outside looking in,” Liotta said.

“There may be an opportunity that’s going to present itself where we are ahead in the fourth quarter, and we have to close the game out. So we have to be able to do that.”

Schedule

Coach: Shawn Liotta

2019 record: 6-4, 4-4 in Class 3A Big East

All-time record: 287-256-9

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, at Valley*, 7

9.18, at East Allegheny*, 7

9.25, at Apollo-Ridge, 7

10.2, at North Catholic*#, 7

10.9, Deer Lakes*, 7

10.16, at Freeport*, 7

10.23, Derry*, 7

*Class 3A Allegheny Conference game

#At Mars Athletic Complex

Statistical leaders

Passing: Alex Arledge

147-274, 2,462 yards, 27 TDs

Receiving: Seth Fischbach*

50-1,022 yards, 12 TDs

Rushing: Mike Scherer*

191-1,049 yards, 8 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• Burrell was one of two teams in the WPIAL last year to have a 2,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard receiver and a 1,000-yard rusher.

• Although the Bucs finished with a better overall record than Mt. Pleasant last season, they lost a tiebreaker in the conference standings and missed out on their first playoff appearance since 2012.

• Arledge put together a streak of 187 attempted passes last year without an interception. The streak ended on his final pass of the season.

• In his first two seasons at Burrell, Liotta has helped the Bucs double their winning total each season. Burrell’s six wins last season was its highest total since 2012.

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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