Trib HSSN Football Team of the Week for Oct. 25, 2021

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Monday, October 25, 2021 | 7:36 PM


The year was 1988. President Ronald Reagan was concluding his eighth year in office while turning the White House over to George H. W. Bush.

A gallon of gas was 91 cents, the price of a dozen eggs was 65 cents and the cost of a movie ticket was $3.50.

During the 1988 high school football season, Leechburg qualified for the WPIAL playoffs with a 7-3 record before losing to then District 7 member Wilmington, 35-0.

Little did anyone know it would be 33 years before the Blue Devils would qualify for the postseason again.

The Leechburg rain dance finally ended the longest current postseason drought with an exclamation point on Friday, a 66-6 triumph over Imani Christian.

“Obviously getting into the playoffs for the first time in 33 years,” Leechburg coach Randy Walters said when asked about what made Friday night special. “But I liked the way my team took care of business. They played the way they were supposed to 48 minutes.”

The Blue Devils cruised to the big win thanks to their budding superstar running back, Braylan Lovelace. The junior rushed for 183 yards against the visiting Saints.

“I have told anyone that will listen that Braylan Lovelace is a D-1 football player,” Walters said. “There is really nothing he does that surprises me. Best part he is a better kid than he is a football player.”

Lovelace also reached end zone heaven seven times by scoring touchdowns on runs of 4, 41, 1, 8, 12, 9 and 2 yards.

“Braylan is one of our leaders and we need him along with a few others to play their best in the big moments,” Walters said.

The Blue Devils aren’t a one-man band with Lovelace. Senior Thomas Burke had one of his best games of the season with 96 yards rushing. Walters calls him a leader who is very smart with the football.

Walters was quick to praise others for the team’s 7-2 overall record.

“I don’t know if Eli Rich is underrated, but he is the key to our offense and defense,” Walters said. “All of our receivers — Tyler Foley, Logan Kline and freshman Jayden Floyd — are having great years. I said it last week. As a group, our offensive line has come a long way throughout the year.”

Leechburg came close to a winning season and a playoff spot in each of the last two years, finishing 5-5 in 2019 and 3-4 a year ago.

“We were close to having a winning season, which was nice, and I think it helped motivate us throughout the offseason,” Walters said. “We are happy to be in the playoffs, but everyone in the program knows we have an opportunity to do much more.”

The first step comes Friday when Leechburg visits perennial power Greensburg Central Catholic in a battle for third place in the Class A Eastern Conference.

“GCC is a very good team,” Walters said. “Coach Thomas and his staff have done a great job in a short period of time. They are disciplined and talented. We are going to have to play very well for 48 minutes to have a chance in the end. Hopefully we give the fans a great game.”

The fans love what the Blue Devils have given them thus far in what is becoming a season to remember at Leechburg.

“I think there is a lot of excitement for the program and school right now,” Walters said. “It also means a lot to the Leechburg community. The support has been fantastic.”

2021 HSSN Team of the Week

Week 7 – Beaver Bobcats

Week 6 – Seneca Valley Raiders

Week 5 – Upper St. Clair Panthers

Week 4 – Mohawk Warriors

Week 3 – Union Scotties

Week 2 – McKeesport Tigers

Week 1 – Shaler Titans

Week Zero – Northgate Flames

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