Young Freeport hopes to make impression in revamped conference

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020 | 10:26 PM


Youth will be served on the Freeport football team as underclassmen will be featured at several key positions.

“There is a lot of good competition, including some younger players, freshmen and sophomores who got some good playing time last year,” said veteran coach John Gaillot, who welcomes back just five combined starters on offense and defense as the Yellowjackets hope to return to the WPIAL playoffs after missing out on the postseason a year ago.

“We lost a big senior class from last year, and there were a couple of others who transferred.”

Gaillot said the team rallied around what needed to be done to get back on the field for workouts over the past month or two after coronavirus restrictions halted in-person team gatherings.

“The kids are thankful to be on the field,” he said. “We had a lot of conditioning to catch up on through summer workouts. They responded and really have set a good foundation.”

Freeport began preseason camp Aug. 24, and, like all of the other teams in the WPIAL, is moving forward to a season that looks different from just a month ago.

When the WPIAL made coronavirus-related changes to the schedule, a scrimmage against Hampton and a Week Zero game against Armstrong were eliminated. A meeting with rival Knoch became a scrimmage, and the Oct. 30 conference game with Deer Lakes turned into the new season opener Sept. 11 in place of a nonconference game against 2019 WPIAL Class 2A champion Avonworth.

The Yellowjackets’ nonconference game with Apollo-Ridge on Sept. 18 remains.

“We have a lot of young guys, but everyone is hungry and ready to make plays to get us as far as we can go,” said junior Garrett King, who will take over at quarterback for the graduated Garrett Schaffhauser. “Everyone’s been doing whatever they can to prepare, and we have to really focus and take advantage of preseason camp.”

King served as a backup to Schaffhauser last year.

“Garrett is an intelligent kid and a hard worker,” Gaillot said. “Two years ago, when (starting quarterback) Austin Romanchak went down against Derry, we put him right in, and he took complete control of the offense for a couple of series. He showed a lot of poise. I have all the confidence in the world in him.”

King started at safety last year and finished second on the team in tackles with 54 to go along with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Ben Lane, a sophomore, is expected to return as a starter at cornerback (28 tackles). He also is the top returning rusher (11-62 yards, one touchdown) and receiver (11-142, TD).

Sophomore Jackson Reiser saw starting time last year at inside linebacker and was third on the team in tackles (51).

Senior Logan Manke (guard) and junior Elijah Freeman (guard) return to anchor the offensive line.

Gaillot said he is happy to have Vinnie Clark back in the fold. Clark is a junior who got experience as a freshman but didn’t play last year.

Also hoping to make an impact this season are seniors Dennis Daugherty (offensive/defensive line), Gavin Stehman (H-back) and Mario DeVivo (wide receiver); juniors Cole Charlton (tight end/outside linebacker) and Shane Jack (H-back); and sophomores Andrew Sullivan (outside linebacker) and Parker Lucas (wide receiver/defensive back).

“They’ve experienced that varsity speed, so we’re hoping they can build off that and make the jump this season and continue to grow,” Gaillot said. “There is so much potential for this whole group. They just have to believe in themselves.”

Freeport went 3-5 in conference play last year. One of its wins came against Deer Lakes, 40-21, in Week 6.

The Yellowjackets also will take on Derry, Burrell, Valley, East Allegheny and North Catholic in conference play.

“I really like the conference,” Gaillot said. “We know a number of the teams and the coaching staffs. We have to be ready to play each night.”

Schedule

Coach: John Gailott

2019 record: 4-5, 3-5 in Class 3A Big East

All-time record: 559-378-47

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, Deer Lakes*, 7

9.18, Apollo-Ridge, 7

9.25, at Derry*, 7

10.2, Valley*, 7

10.9, at East Allegheny*, 7

10.16, Burrell*, 7

10.23, at North Catholic*#, 7

*Class 3A Allegheny Conference game

#At Mars Athletic Complex

Statistical leaders

Passing: Garrett Schaffhauser*

95-153, 1,376 yards, 13 TDs

Receiving: Brodey Woods*

38-552 yards, 7 TDs

Rushing: Ricky Hunter*

108-728 yards, 10 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• Freeport coach John Gailott owns 72 victories and eight WPIAL playoff appearances in his first 12 seasons at the helm of the Yellowjackets.

• Freeport averaged 31.3 points last year and gave up 27.2 a contest.

• The Yellowjackets’ rushing attack averaged just under 200 yards a game (195.4) last year.

• The Freeport defense racked up 22 sacks in nine games a year ago as 12 defenders recorded at least one quarterback takedown.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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