Freeport stays confident in must-win situations
Saturday, October 5, 2019 | 7:57 PM
For the second straight year, Freeport is in a position where it needs to win out to secure a playoff spot.
After Friday night’s 40-21 win over rival Deer Lakes, the Yellowjackets look pretty comfortable in that situation.
Last year, the Yellowjackets started the same way. They lost their first three games to Derry, North Catholic and Elizabeth Forward — the three teams that tied for the Big East Conference title. Freeport bounced back and won five straight conference games and outscored opponents 178-36 to secure a WPIAL Class 3A playoff bid.
So, when this season started in similiar fashion, the Yellowjackets knew exactly what they needed to do.
“When we started 0-3, we stopped and said ‘Been there, done that,’ ” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “We did it last year, and we got all five. We have three now, so we just have to focus on the next two.”
One difference this season is several key players suffered injuries at the beginning of the season.
At one point, the Yellowjackets were missing seven regular starters and had three freshmen starting. They are still without senior Isaiah Bauman, who had seven receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown in their season opener before suffering a knee injury that has kept him out since.
“Without Bauman in there, that’s tough, but kids have stepped up,” Gaillot said. “Max Selinger is doing a great job filling the void in there. Ben Lane is a freshman. Garrett King is such a selfless player, playing linebacker and doing so well.”
While underclassmen filled the void early, starters gradually returned to the lineup over the past few weeks. Not surprisingly, the Yellowjackets have started to show what they can really do.
Freeport has scored 40 points or more in its last three games and outscored opponents 146-49 during that stretch.
The product put on the field on Friday nights has been crucial for the Yellowjackets, but Gaillot credited his senior class with putting the team in the right mindset to make it happen.
“The senior leadership here, they are major contributors. Most of them are two-way starters, so they were like ‘We’re not losing again,’ ” Gaillot said. “They picked up the practice pace, everything. They are an extremely focused group of young men, and they are very excited.”
With two conference games left on their schedule, the Yellowjackets might be hitting their stride just in time for a postseason run, but they don’t want to get ahead of themselves.
“We’re gonna keep going, just one game at a time,” Ricky Hunter said. “It just takes one game. We have Burrell next week, so we are going to focus on Burrell. If we win, we win. We’re going to focus on that and then the next one after that.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .