WPIAL football player of the week — Week 8
Sunday, October 20, 2019 | 9:28 PM
Once a perennial power, the Burrell football program as fallen on tough times as of late. The Buccaneers, the 1995 WPIAL AA champions, haven’t reached the playoffs since 2012 and have not won a postseason game since 2005.
That could change soon thanks in part to 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior quarterback Alex Arledge.
Arledge is a big reason why the Bucs might not stop here at the end of regulation. They enter Week 9 with a 6-3 record and can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Derry or losses by Deer Lakes and Mt. Pleasant.
“Alex has a big time arm, is extremely accurate and can throw the ball sideline to sideline,” Burrell first-year coach Shawn Liotta said. “He is definitely a college prospect, has all the tools you want, big-time arm, great size, leadership and ability to read coverage and defensive leverage.”
All of those qualities were on display Friday. Arledge connected on 25 of 37 passes for 438 yards in the Bucs’ 58-34 win over Waynesburg.
“I knew he was going to have a huge night throwing the ball up and down the field,” Liotta said. “We saw some things in their defense that we felt good about attacking with our passing game.
“Our receivers did a great job running routes, reading coverages and catching the ball. And a big part of the success was our running back and offensive line providing great pass protection.”
In Week 8, was he threw touchdown passes of 9, 61, 40, 75 and 47 yards, three of which went to senior wide receiver Seth Fischbach. He was not intercepted.
“Alex did a tremendous job of attacking the Waynesburg defensive coverage and being very accurate with his ball placement,” Liotta said. “He did a great job of finding open receivers as five different players caught three or more balls in the game.”
The nonconference win over Waynesburg did nothing to help the Bucs’ playoff hopes, but Liotta was thrilled with knowing the victory guaranteed his program a winning season for the first time in seven years.
“I was extremely proud of the way our entire team played on Friday night,” he said. “This has been a special season for our kids as they have worked so hard to bring winning football back to Burrell.”
Friday was just another big game for a quarterback who is building quite a 2019 resume. He has thrown for 2,103 yards (122 completions) with 23 touchdowns.
“I call him the ‘gunslinger’ because with his arm we can truly attack every inch of the field,” Liotta said. “Also, we run an offense that requires our quarterback and wide receivers to be on the same page as our routes will adjust post snap based on defensive alignment and leverage.
“On top of all of that, he is an excellent young man, excellent student and a tremendous representative of the Burrell School District.”
The district is excited with the play of the Buccaneers, who have won four of their last five games. Burrell Bucs Stadium should be electric Friday for the win-and-in game against visiting Derry.
“There is a tremendous buzz around our football program right now,” Liotta said. “We look forward to the opportunity to compete with a great program such as Derry for the chance to secure a playoff berth.
“I expect a packed and loud crowd Friday to support us against Derry and honor our great group of seniors in their final home game. It’s a great time to be a Burrell Buc right now, and I’m just extremely proud of our players and coaching staff.”
WPIAL Week 8 Honorable Mentions:
Ameer Dudley, Central Valley
The junior quarterback was deadly accurate with his passing Friday in a battle of playoff-bound teams in Class 3A.
Dudley hit on 14 of 17 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns, plus he scored on a short run as the Warriors rolled past South Park, 48-13.
It was a great tune-up for Dudley and Central Valley as they hit the road in Week 9 to play in the Tri-County West Conference championship game against Aliquippa.
Justin Huss, Derry
At the home of 2018 WPIAL Class 3A runner-up Derry, they are making a fuss over their record setting running back.
Huss, a senior, rushed for a school-record 304 yards, besting the 59-year-old record of 274 yards set by Denny Molchan. More impressive is all of those yards came in only two quarters in a 42-0 win over Deer Lakes.
Huss scored on runs of 61, 62, 94 and 49 yards, caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Paul Koontz, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass.
Ben Jackson, West Greene
It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve had a Ben Jackson sighting in our weekly ode to the WPIAL’s top players, but he makes his return in grand style.
Jackson not only became the leading rusher at West Greene, he also broke the Greene County career rushing mark held by former Pioneers great Rodney Wilson from 26 years ago.
He ran for 313 yards and scored seven touchdowns in a 62-8 victory over Jefferson-Morgan that sealed the Tri-County Conference championship outright.
Read more on his attempt to break the WPIAL touchdown record here.
2019 Trib HSSN football players of the week:
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.