Freeport aims to clinch WPIAL playoff berth against rival Burrell

Wednesday, October 13, 2021 | 5:40 PM

Freeport’s locker room motto is “Tradition Never Graduates.”

And the Yellowjackets are maintaining that tradition as Freeport is one victory away from securing its 31st WPIAL playoff berth, the Alle-Kiski Valley’s best.

The Yellowjackets (3-3, 2-0) are in second place in the Allegheny 7 Conference as they prepare to visit Burrell (1-6, 1-2) on Friday.

After a tough start facing the likes of playoff contenders Avonworth, Armstrong and Serra Catholic, the Yellowjackets appear to be hitting their stride with victories the past two weeks over Valley and East Allegheny.

Freeport was on the verge of being idle for two weeks after Apollo-Ridge and Derry couldn’t field teams because of covid issues. The school hurriedly slated a game against Serra Catholic. Freeport lost that one, 14-3, but it got the team back to a game-playing routine.

“Absolutely it helped,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “When you lose a week, then almost two weeks, it’s hard to come back and do well with what you normally do. It hurts.”

“It kind of takes the emotion out of things when you have a week off,” lineman Logan Jendrejewski said. “You practice all week and there’s no game to play. But playing Serra Catholic really helped us.”

Freeport lost its last game at Burrell two years ago when the Bucs went for a two-point conversion on a gamble that paid off.

“Hopefully, that doesn’t happen again,” Gaillot said with a laugh. “I hope our kids play well and continue to be aggressive like we have been and our defense has really stepped it up. I like where we’re at right now.”

After six straight losses, Burrell finally tasted victory with a 28-24 win at Deer Lakes last Friday.

“Our losses had piled up there and we were 0-6,” Bucs coach Shawn Liotta said. “But the kids continued to work hard. A lot of teams at that point would go into the tank, but if you had come to one of our practices last week, you’d never be able to guess our record.”

Burrell is still in the playoff hunt despite its lone victory since the WPIAL is taking the top four from the conference to the postseason. The Bucs pretty much have to run the table to get in and that’s where senior Caden DiCaprio comes in.

“It was pretty easy keeping the younger players positive and in the right mindset,” said DiCaprio, who carried 41 times for 149 yards against Deer Lakes.

Both teams have maneuvered their offensive backfields, shifting quarterbacks and running backs whenever the occasion called for it. Ben Lane and Garrett King are an example for Freeport.

“We continue to make adjustments moving to certain positions that give us the best chance of winning,” Gaillot said.

“We have a couple different guys to take snaps for us,” Liotta said. “Chase Fenner has been our main quarterback and Devin Beattie played most of the game when we have certain sets, and Chase becomes a blocking back and Chase did an excellent job.”

A feel-good story for Freeport has been the play of senior Andrew Sullivan, plagued by injuries over his first three seasons.

Sullivan had an interception and a game-clinching fumble recovery last Friday against East Allegheny.

“We’re going to do the same thing for Burrell as we’ve done every week, watch film, go over our game plan and go out and get it done,” Sullivan said.

Allegheny rivals

Burrell and Freeport are forever intertwined with the Bucs’ back-to-back 6-0 wins in the 1967 and ’68 WPIAL title games. Freeport, however, leads the all-time series 24-15. Here’s a look at the last 10 meetings:

2020: Freeport 38, Burrell 18

2019: Burrell 36, Freeport 35

2018: Freeport 48, Burrell 3

2017: Freeport 44, Burrell 0

2016: Freeport 24, Burrell 20

2015: Freeport 46, Burrell 7

2014: Freeport 50, Burrell 0

2013: Freeport 12, Burrell 10

2012: Freeport 26, Burrell 7

2011: Burrell 33, Freeport 25

Tags: ,

More High School Football

Coach Ron Prady doesn’t want Latrobe football to be 1-hit wonder
Valley goes through growing pains in Dave Heavner’s 1st season
Returning contributors have Quaker Valley girls in position to make noise
PIAA announces semifinal sites, times for state football playoffs
Westinghouse shuts down Farrell, sets up PIAA semifinal showdown with WPIAL champion