Freeport football in unique situation without a Week 1 opponent

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Thursday, August 24, 2017 | 6:48 PM


John Gaillot has nothing on his calendar for the first night of September.

It's an odd situation for a high school football coach, to have the first Friday night of the regular season off. But Freeport lost its scheduled Week 1 game when nonconference opponent Vincentian folded its team.

Which, perhaps, makes Freeport's Week Zero contest all the more important. Because the Yellowjackets open Allegheny Conference play against Deer Lakes on Sept. 8, their nonconference tilt with Yough at 6 p.m. Friday at Freeport Area Athletic Stadium will at least give them full-speed game action before the grind of conference action.

“I think that game will give us a good baseline so we know what to expect coming into Deer Lakes,” senior lineman Austin Kemp said. “Just more time to prepare.”

The scheduling quirk puts Freeport in a position a college or NFL team might face, with two weeks to prepare between games.

“(We'll just be looking) at what our next opponent did last year, looking at their scrimmages, and just trying to get the kids prepared a little bit earlier,” Gaillot said. “I've never been in that situation.

“We're going to take advantage of it. We can work them harder. Since we didn't really have a second week of double sessions because school started this week, now we've got practice that whole week. We can catch up to everybody else that had two full weeks.”

Always focused on the present, though, Gaillot doesn't want to look past Friday's game against Yough and the benefits it provides. The teams played last summer in what Gaillot originally hoped to make a Week Zero game. When that didn't work out, Yough and Freeport decided to make it a scrimmage.

This time around, the game is for real. Gaillot said he and his staff spent 18 hours Saturday and Sunday installing a game plan for Yough, just as they would for any regular season or playoff game.

“I like it, especially if you have a young team, because it just gets you clock management and it has no effect on playoffs,” Gaillot said. “It just gives you a chance. Last year I really wanted it just because we were so young. We're still young, and we still have some growing pains here that we've got to get over. I think we can be more competitive than we were last year.”

Freeport was breaking in an almost entirely new starting lineup last season after making the WPIAL semifinals with a senior-laden group in 2015. The Yellowjackets won four of their first five games but slumped down the stretch, losing their last four contests.

Most of last season's key contributors return with an eye toward the postseason.

“Friday night we've got to come out fast, we've got to come out strong, we've got to play our best,” senior lineman Matt Charlton said. “Really, we've got two weeks of rest. We're going to come out and work that week we're off, but still we've got to give it everything we have in that Week Zero game.

“I think it goes without saying, our first game of the season we're always the most excited for.”

As for next Friday, Gaillot could spend the evening at Owens Field, site of Deer Lakes' game at Apollo-Ridge. Or he could decide to take the night off.

“We'll see what happens, but I'd rather the kids just relax,” he said. “Sometimes if you're football, football, football all the time, it starts to get a little bit old. Sometimes it's nice to not come in Saturday and Sunday, have two days off. We did that during the summer, and they're pretty excited to come back (when practice resumes). They miss it. So it's not a bad thing to have two days off.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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