Alex Bellinotti leads Burrell football into season
Two years ago, as a freshman, Burrell's Alex Bellinotti got his chance to show what he could do with playing time on offense, defense and special teams.
Injuries to key players helped afford him the opportunity.
“It was kind of like being thrown to the wolves a little bit,” Bellinotti said. “But it was good experience.”
His role increased as a sophomore. He put on muscle, got quicker and carried with him the lessons learned from not only the upperclassmen he played next to but his reps on the field in key situations.
Bellinotti, a tight end and linebacker, rose to the occasion.
He led the Bucs with 97 tackles and recorded five sacks in nine games. Offensively, he had a team-best 31 receptions for 302 yards and three touchdowns and was an added blocking force in the run game.
For his efforts, he was named a first-team Allegheny Conference all-star at tight end and linebacker.
“Last year gave me the chance to grow as a leader,” said Bellinotti, the son of third-year Burrell coach Dave Bellinotti.
Bellinotti's role on and off the field as a leader, along with his fellow returning varsity teammates will be counted on more this year as a young team — 30 of 44 players on the roster are either freshmen or sophomores — gets ready for the 2017 season.
Burrell opens preseason camp Monday at Cal (Pa.), and the first week of camp practices lead to Saturday's scrimmage at Ambridge.
“I just have to go out there and do my job and try not to do too much,” he said.
In the offseason, from the conclusion of Burrell's championship wrestling season to last week's heat acclimation workouts, Bellinotti focused on things he wanted to improve on from last year.
“I knew I had to be faster, stronger and in a lot better shape,” said Bellinotti, who likes to model his game after the toughness of Hall-of-Fame linebackers Jack Lambert and Dick Butkus and the pass-catching and athletic ability of former Steelers tight end Heath Miller.
“I had to prepare a lot more vigorously than I did last year. I feel pretty confident in myself and my team,” Bellinotti said. “It will be a big challenge in the conference, but I think we can be pretty competitive. Everyone is meshing well together and doing their part. There is definitely a competitive fire with everyone on the team.”
Bellinotti said he would trade in his individual statistics and accomplishments last year to play in the WPIAL playoffs.
Burrell won two of its first three games in 2016, but a six-game losing streak dampened its season.
“It was a good individual year, and it was an honor to be recognized by the coaches (on the all-star teams), but I wished the team could've done better,” Bellinotti said. “I am all about the team success. The team is first.”
Bellinotti said he understands there can be added pressure and scrutiny as the coach's son, but he wants his hard work and results to be noticed.
Dave Bellinotti said his son earned his recognition on the football field.
“He's a mature kid and understands the position he is in,” Dave Bellinotti said. “I've watched him mature physically and mentally. He's worked hard in the weight room and studying film. When it comes time to put the pads on, will he be able to build off of last year? I know he can, and I think he will.”
Burrell will play a Week Zero game Aug. 25 at home against Springdale. The Dynamos' coach is former Bucs standout quarterback Seth Napierkowski.
A nonconference game at Hopewell follows before the conference opener Sept. 8 against Shady Side Academy.
“I think any athletic season is like reading a book,” Alex Bellinotti said. “If you skip to the end of a book to find out what happens, you miss the important and meaningful details in between. That's how I look at this season. We want to be in the playoffs, but we need to take it one game at a time and understand more of the process.”