Freeport, North Catholic prepare for physical battle in Allegheny Seven matchup

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Thursday, October 22, 2020 | 5:55 PM


Physicality is a football trait that both Freeport and North Catholic take in pride when they step onto the field each Friday night.

So, when the teams meet at the Mars Athletic Complex this Friday for their Allegheny Seven conference matchup, both Freeport’s John Gaillot and North Catholic’s Pat O’Shea were on the same wavelength when asked what the game would come down to.

“We have to match their physicality, and that’s the big thing because if you don’t have that, you aren’t going to win many games,” Gaillot said. “That’s the important thing for us. We must match what they bring. We can’t regress or go lower. We have to be more physical.”

“Freeport kids are tough kids, and it takes a lot when you play them. They took us up to the final few minutes last year,” O’Shea said. “They are physically tough, mentally tough, so we’ve been telling the kids it’s going to be a 48-minute battle.”

Physicality should not be a problem for either team. Throughout his time at Freeport (3-1, 3-0), Gaillot has preached physicality and being mentally strong. It has led to the Yellowjackets surprising teams each year, including this season.

After losing a large senior class, the Yellowjackets were overlooked heading into this season and flew under the radar. But they knew that if they stuck to the culture of their program, they would surprise people.

So far this season, that is exactly what they have done.

“Since I can remember, Coach has always talked about how Freeport has always been hard-nosed and has never been scared of anyone,” junior Vinnie Clark said. “We know we can’t be scared of anyone. No matter who we are playing, we have to go at them head on.”

The Yellowjackets will need that fearlessness on Friday when they take on the No. 2 Trojans (6-0, 4-0).

North Catholic has scored 28 or more points in each of their games and has allowed an average of 7.2 points per game.

The Trojans are led by a dual-threat quarterback in junior Joey Prentice. He’s thrown for 955 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, while also running for 430 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He is surrounded by athletes too. Wide receiver Nick Maher has pulled in a team-high 21 passes for 403 yards and seven touchdowns. Running back Kyle Tipinski has also rushed for 304 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Yellowjackets have a few talented players as well and it starts with sophomore quarterback Ben Lane. He took over under center in Freeport’s third game against Derry and has thrown for 441 yards and three touchdowns in just two games. As a natural tailback, he’s also run for 325 yards and six touchdowns.

“We know that the threat that Freeport has at quarterback,” O’Shea said. “It’s something that we have to answer the call on or we are going to be in big trouble.”

O’Shea said seeing what a quarterback like Prentice can do prepares his team to face players like Lane.

“The number of times we have watched Joey turn a negative play or a zero play into a positive play, we see it not only as a team, but as a defense, because we know there are other quarterbacks in the WPIAL that can do what he does,” O’Shea said. “So, we know if you do not maintain your rush lanes, your cutback lanes, you are going to run into kids like Joey that can turn something that looks like nothing into another first down.”

Throughout this season, the Yellowjackets have been looking for opportunities to prove themselves, but with a young team, they’ve also been looking to improve. Friday night is an opportunity to do both.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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