Burrell gets its kicks in lopsided victory over East Allegheny
It's rare when a football game is decided by onside kicks.
But Burrell successfully recovered four onside kicks that led to touchdowns in the first half as the Bucs rolled to a convincing 49-14 victory Friday night over East Allegheny.
Burrell coach Kevin Horwatt decided to keep kickoffs away from speedy Wildcats receivers such as K.J. Marshall and Shawn Adair. The strategy paid off.
The victory before a poor turnout at Buccaneer Stadium keeps Burrell (7-1, 6-1) in a first-place tie with Freeport in the Allegheny Conference.
The win also was important because it sewed up home-field advantage for the first round of the WPIAL playoffs. The Bucs are 8-2 in opening-round home games.
East Allegheny dropped to 1-7, 1-6. Despite the loss, the Wildcats have a 12-9-1 edge in the all-time series.
Burrell won the pregame coin toss and deferred. But it didn't matter.
Ryan Sowol recovered the onside kick, and Cole Bush scored the first of his four touchdowns three plays later on a 34-yard run.
Sowol again picked up an onside kick, and Bush raced 40 yards for a touchdown to put Burrell ahead, 14-0, with just 1:14 elapsed.
Tackle Cory Klems and guard Shane Cornuet opened massive holes on the left side of the line for Bush's first two scoring runs.
“Our coaches had us lined up the right way, and we knew what was coming,” said lineman Nick Nitowski.
A third onside kick was given to East Allegheny after Burrell was flagged for illegal touching.
“That's what we wanted to do,” Horwatt said. “Looking at that team, they have tons of talented athletes, so we took a chance.”
But the Bucs regained possession on downs and drove 85 yards in seven plays for Bush's third touchdown of the first quarter, a 2-yard run. A fourth onside kick was recovered by Mitch Pollino, which resulted in a 24-yard pass from James Liput, who returned to the lineup after an injury, to tight end Matt Hess.
Pollino recovered his second onside kick of the first half after he scored on a 24-yard run.
That led to a 2-yard touchdown burst by Chad Tonks, ordinarily a lineman, who set up right behind Liput in the I-formation.
“It was a really good game plan we put together,” Horwatt said. “We've been preaching all year we needed to put together four quarters of football.”
Burrell's ensuing conventional kickoff was returned 42 yards by Marshall.
“Well, that's why we avoided those kicks,” Horwatt said.
Even though the Bucs were a point short of the 35-point lead that employs the PIAA's continuous clock rules, referee Bob Dornenberg emphatically ordered the Burrell timekeeper to keep the clock going in the second half.
Bush concluded the scoring with a 28-yard run.The senior now has 1,535 yards, 155 short of the school's single-season record of 1,690 set by Ian Courtney in 2002.Bush has 26 touchdowns, one short of the standard set by Tyler Henderson in 2005.
The Bucs collected 353 offensive yards.
“It wasn't like we had anything to prove,” Cornuet said. “We just had to get a little confidence in ourselves.”
Burrell concludes the regular season Friday at home against Deer Lakes.
George Guido is a freelance writer.