Burrell to lean on pair of senior linemen

Sunday, August 14, 2022 | 4:10 PM

Ian Quinn started organized tackle football in third grade in the Lower Burrell Flyers youth football organization.

He found himself blocking on the offensive line.

“I was always a bigger kid. I was destined to be a lineman,” Quinn said.

“I wasn’t too good at first, actually. I was a little soft when I was younger and was nervous to hit my first couple of years. But I kept working and gained confidence in myself that I could be a good football player,” he said.

Aaron Mele started a year earlier than Quinn at the Flyers developmental level. He, too, knew from early on he was going to be moving defenders and protecting quarterbacks on the line.

“My whole football career, I’ve played center, both guards and both tackles. I’ve played everywhere,” Mele said.

“My coaches have always made sure I’ve understood the importance of learning new techniques at every position.”

The years since their foundational days of youth football have been good to Quinn and Mele, seniors on the Burrell football team.

Now, as multi-year starters and anchors in the trenches along the offensive and defensive lines, Quinn and Mele hope their experience will help fuel this year’s Bucs team to success as it navigates its move to the Class 2A Allegheny Conference.

“We’re excited to go out there and see what we can do,” said Quinn, who, along with Mele, helped Burrell last fall secure a WPIAL Class 3A playoff spot, the program’s first trip to the playoffs since 2012.

“We know what we’re up against with the strong teams and really good players in this conference. We’re going in confident. I know we will be prepared each week.”

Quinn, a strong-side guard on offense who also will team up with Mele at defensive tackle, checks in at 6-foot-1 and is 255 pounds. He put on 15 pounds and muscle in the offseason.

“I feel a lot stronger, and I am bigger, faster and more flexible,” Quinn said.

“I am just a better athlete in general. That was an important part of the offseason for me to do that and be ready.”

Mele will man the right tackle spot. He is 6-1 and is 280 pounds, also up about 15 pounds from last year.

“This is our time,” Mele said.

“I want to be an example for the younger guys about what they can accomplish through playing football and putting in the hard work. Everyone is ready to show that the work we’ve done since last season ended is paying off.”

Quinn was a starter on the line from the first scrimmage his freshman year in 2019.

“I was a little nervous that first scrimmage and those first couple of games my freshman year, but I had good coaching and good guys around me,” he said. “They were always there for me and making sure I knew what I was doing. I feel I was able to hold my own.”

Quinn was right there in the mix as Mele got his start. Mele earned an opportunity for starting time as a sophomore and was a full-time starter last year.

“I am ready to take that next step in my game,” Mele said.

“There are a lot of great guys around me, and we’re ready to help the offense make plays.”

Quinn and Mele helped the line last year open holes in the running game to the tune of 1,936 yards, an average of 176 a game.

The now-graduated Caden Dicaprio enjoyed a standout senior season behind the line as he carried the ball 246 times for 1,273 yards and 14 touchdowns.

While the running game again is expected to be a strong feature of the offense, Quinn and Mele know the passing game, under the direction of second-year signal caller Chase Fenner, a senior, also can get the job done.

“The offensive line has really come together,” Quinn said. “For us, we want to be both strong and quick. We have some really big boys who want to get after it. No matter if we are running or passing, we’re ready, and that starts with good coaching in practice. The big thing is that we are able to move the ball, create good drives and score points. We want to win games.”

Quinn and Mele also hope to create havoc for opposing offenses beside each other in the defensive interior.

“It’s fun on that side of the ball, being able to play with a little more reckless abandon,” Quinn said with a chuckle. “But we know we have to be disciplined while being aggressive.”

While focused on the present, Quinn and Mele also have an eye to the future and the chance to play in college. Both have garnered interest from several local schools.

They both said strong play this season not only will help the team win games, their stated No. 1 priority, but it also will help bolster their stock in the eyes of college scouts and coaches.

“Both Ian and Aaron have been in the program for four years and have meant so much to what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Burrell coach Shawn Liotta said.

“They are guys we definitely look to for leadership on and off the field. They are also great students in the classroom. They are the type of guys who know how to handle things when they are going good and also when there is adversity. They stay at an even keel, which is something their teammates certainly respect. They just go out and do their work and don’t look for any credit. It’s no secret that we’re going to be counting a lot Aaron and Ian and the other lineman this year.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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