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Freeport prepares to slow Burrell running game

| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012,
Freeport's Brian Welsh runs defensive drills during football practice at Freeport High School on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Freeport's Brian Welsh focuses on sprints during football practice at Freeport High School on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
Burrell's Cole Bush runs the ball past Summit Academy's Jamel King during their game at Summit Academy in Herman, Summit Township, on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

Freeport senior defensive lineman Brian Welsh knows the best way — sometimes the only way — to bring down a towering power running back like Burrell senior Cole Bush is to start at the bottom.

Some defenders have tried to stop Bush by meeting him face to face, and that's a mistake, Welsh says.

“Cole is a great player,” Welsh said. “You have to stay low and wrap him up. It's like looking at a tree. You can't chop a tree down from the top. You have to go at the base, especially if you're coming up from defensive back at 150 or 160 pounds. The physics isn't in their favor.”

There's no doubt that Bush, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior tailback/outside linebacker, has been the topic of much conversation and game-planning at Freeport this week.

Bush figures to play a major role when Freeport (4-1, 4-1), ranked No. 10 by Trib Total Media, visits No. 6 Burrell (5-0, 4-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday for a crucial Class AA Allegheny Conference game.

This contest will go a long way toward deciding if Burrell runs away with the conference crown or the title is split at least two ways. After this matchup, neither team faces another opponent that currently owns a winning record. If Freeport wins and the rivals tie for first place, they would be considered co-champions.

“The kids are looking right at Freeport,” Burrell coach Kevin Horwatt said. “They understand the implications. It's a very important game. It should be heated, intense and emotional.”

This season, Bush has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 19 touchdowns, including a school-record six scores in a 56-35 win over Kittanning.

Freeport coach John Gaillot said Bush compares favorably with the best power backs in WPIAL history.

“You don't see too many people like that, with his speed and size and the way he runs,” Gaillot said.

Horwatt thinks Burrell's offensive line has gone unsung. All are smaller than Bush.

“They've done an excellent job opening holes and pass blocking,” Horwatt said.

Freeport will have the overall size advantage. Welsh, a 6-2, 240-pound two-way lineman, could be a difference-maker. Welsh was named the Allegheny Conference's Co-Defensive Player of the Year last season and is being recruit by St. Francis (Pa.) and Penn. He's also considering attending the Naval Academy.

Freeport can throw a number of other big bodies at Burrell's linemen, including senior Shane McKillop (6-6, 295), another Division I prospect, and junior Nathan Rummel (6-3, 295).

Freeport relies mainly on senior quarterback Brendan Lynch, who has passed for 343 yards and four TDs and rushed for 485 yards and four scores; and senior running back Damon Smith, who has 403 yards and four touchdowns.

Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at pkogut@tribweb.com or 724-224-2696.

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