Freeport aims to find winning formula against Elizabeth Forward

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 | 4:37 PM

Now that Freeport has won the first WPIAL football playoff game ever held at Freeport Area Athletic Stadium, it is time for the Yellowjackets to hit the road.

Freeport visits Elizabeth Forward on Friday night in the Class 3A quarterfinals against a Warriors team it has lost to each of the past three seasons, including last year’s playoff opener.

The task won’t be easy because Elizabeth Forward has emerged as a WPIAL power under coach Mike Collodi, making the playoffs the last five seasons. The Warriors made the finals last year, losing to Central Valley.

Before Collodi arrived in 2015, the Warriors had qualified for the playoffs 12 times since joining the WPIAL in 1921 and never more than three consecutive seasons (1998-2000).

“I give the credit to our players,” Collodi said. “They’ve been phenomenal, and they’ve created a winning culture around here. Before I came, EF had only won two conference titles. Now we’ve won four in the last five years.”

The fourth-seeded Warriors (8-2) can win in a number of ways.

“I think our overall team speed is there, and we have some great weapons,” Collodi said. “We’ve had different people step up, and that makes for a great offense. It’s tough to single out one player. Defensively, we give up an average of only 7½ points a game.”

Quarterback Zion White has thrown for 970 yards and 19 touchdowns. His favorite receiver is Zach Boyd with 22 receptions for 527 yards — that’s 24 yards per catch. Boyd has scored 16 touchdowns overall.

While Collodi, a 1998 Burrell graduate, has guided Elizabeth Forward to new heights, Freeport’s John Gaillot’s job has been to keep the tradition going for the No. 5 Yellowjackets (6-4). His teams have made the playoffs in 10 of his 14 seasons.

“They’re very well-coached, and they have some tremendous athletes there,” Gaillot said of EF. “We have our work cut out, and they come to play. We’re anticipating a great game.”

School spirit is also prevalent at Freeport with the football team winning Friday and the volleyball team taking WPIAL honors Saturday.

“Volleyball had a great win the other day, and it was exciting,” Gaillot said. “After our win Friday, all the players, cheerleaders and fans got together in a big huddle on the field. That’s what high school athletics are all about.”

Freeport, in the playoffs for the 31st time, broke open a close game last Friday with three fourth-quarter touchdowns for a 34-6 victory. Zach Clark scored three touchdowns during the game.

Gaillot has alternated quarterbacks between Ben Lane and Garrett King, depending on the opponent. The Yellowjackets rushed for 274 yards, 170 in the second half.

Freeport’s defense has given up 155 points this season, 81 of those in games against Armstrong and North Catholic.

The winner Friday will advance to the semifinal round against the Central Valley-East Allegheny winner.

New rivals

Freeport and Elizabeth Forward have only played in each of the last three seasons.

2018: Elizabeth Forward 27, Freeport 21

2019: Elizabeth Forward 31, Freeport 13

2020: Elizabeth Forward 34, Freeport 20 (WPIAL playoffs)

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