Freeport looks to avenge loss to Seton LaSalle in 1st round contest

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 | 5:42 PM

Austin Romanchak admitted part of him wanted to see Seton LaSalle as Freeport's opponent in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs.

The WPIAL granted that wish, and now Romanchak and his teammates will need to follow through on their desire for revenge.

No. 6 Freeport will square off against No. 3 Seton LaSalle in the first round of the playoffs, less than a month after the Rebels (8-1) dealt the Yellowjackets their only Allegheny Conference defeat. That 21-10 Seton LaSalle victory enabled the Rebels to win the league title, one game ahead of Freeport (7-2).

“Who wouldn't want to play another conference team again?” said Romanchak, Freeport's junior quarterback. “Just to play up against them after what happened the first game, just to get what we can and match up again, everyone loves a good game in the playoffs. Definitely, I'd say we were looking for that.”

This marks the second consecutive season the WPIAL slotted the Allegheny Conference champion and runner-up against each other in the first round of the playoffs. Last season, it was Apollo-Ridge and Keystone Oaks, with conference champion KO winning the playoff rematch, as well.

Freeport, back in the playoffs after a season away, will look for a different result.

“We're all very excited,” junior Conor Selinger said. “We felt like we didn't play to our full potential in that game, and we're all looking forward to getting another round of it.”

The desire for the rematch isn't one-sided. Seton LaSalle coach Rob Carter said he received text messages from his players after the WPIAL released the brackets Monday night.

“They're going to be fresh in our memory, and I know it's going to be fresh in their memory,” Carter said Monday night. “Frankly, I wish tomorrow was Friday and we can get to work.”

At least part of the excitement for Friday's game comes from the closeness of the first matchup.

Freeport led 10-7 in the fourth quarter and made a big fourth-down stop in the red zone to preserve that lead. But Seton LaSalle intercepted Romanchak two plays later and quickly scored the go-ahead touchdown, then added a late insurance score after another interception.

“It was a close game,” Romanchak said. “We made some simple mistakes that we can't afford to make in close games like that in the playoffs. I feel we're more prepared and ready, and we've fine-tuned our game.”

Although the teams know each other well from the prior matchup, Freeport coach John Gaillot and Carter expect some differences Friday night.

“Now with the playoffs, you're going to pull out everything you have,” Carter said. “You're going to give everything you've got. And I think what you're going to get is a there's-no-tomorrow factor.

“We're going to go to work and see what we can do. Obviously, they're going to have some wrinkles and we're going to have some wrinkles. We'll see how we mesh.”

Seton LaSalle, whose lone loss came to Quaker Valley in a Week 8 nonconference matchup, will bring its top weapon in star running back Lionel Deanes. The senior rushed for 1,776 yards and 19 touchdowns during the regular season, including 285 yards and three scores in the first matchup against Freeport.

“We know he's a good runner, and last time he got the best of us,” Selinger said. “This time, we're hoping we can stop him.”

Freeport's defense allowed 12.9 points per game during the season and lowered that number to 8.3 ppg in conference play.

Freeport and Seton LaSalle are returning to the playoffs after missing out in 2016, so excitement reigns at both schools.

“All I can hope for as a coach is they realize this is a chance they have for greatness,” Carter said.

Freeport advanced to the WPIAL semifinals in 2015, the Yellowjackets' last playoff appearance. Not many of the current players started then, but they hope they can match those accomplishments.

“We're ecstatic to be in the playoffs and be back,” Gaillot said. “It's on us as a staff to get the kids ready and give them the best shot to win the ball game.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.


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