Freeport draws Beaver Falls in 1st-round matchup
For a second consecutive year, Freeport finished the regular season with a 7-2 overall record and a share of the Allegheny Conference title — both years, it owned the head-to-head edge.
Last fall, that performance earned the Yellowjackets a No. 4 seed, their best placement since 1992, in the Class AA playoffs and a matchup with the fourth-place finisher from the Midwestern Conference, Ellwood City.
This time around, the WPIAL football steering committee showed less faith in Freeport.
At the WPIAL pairings meeting Monday night in Green Tree, the Yellowjackets (7-2) emerged as the No. 7 seed in Class AA. They were placed higher than conference co-champ Burrell (8-1), which lost to Freeport, 26-7, earlier this fall and consequently received the No. 8 spot. But they still drew a notably formidable foe in No. 10 Beaver Falls (7-2), which placed third in the Midwestern Conference behind top-seeded Aliquippa and No. 5 Beaver.
“They're a very, very talented team, so we have to prepare as well as we possibly can,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said of the Tigers. “You're in the dance, so anything can happen. That's the way we have to approach it.”
A lopsided nonconference loss to Washington in Week 8 likely contributed to Freeport's less favorable seed. The Yellowjackets fell, 60-6, to the Prexies, who received the No. 3 seed in Class AA Monday.
Gaillot actually described the setback as a positive experience for the Yellowjackets. He noted that Freeport's offense found some success running the ball; the team finished with 182 yards.
Unfortunately, Washington more than doubled Freeport in total yardage.
“No one really even gave us a shot at moving the ball on them,” Gaillot said. “With Wash High, we were a little star-struck at the beginning with all of their athletes. That was huge test, and after watching films, (we) saw that we could compete with that and that they shouldn't be so star-struck next time.”
Apollo-Ridge (6-3), the third-place team in the Class A Eastern Conference, also must limit its awestruck moments if it hopes to contend with its first-round opponent, Monessen (8-1), which features Division I prospects Chavas and Justice Rawlins.
The Vikings, playoff qualifiers for the first time since 2007, received the No. 12 seed and will travel to meet the No. 5 Greyhounds, whose only loss came against No. 1 Clairton.
“It wasn't a big shocker for us,” coach John Skiba said. “I don't know how happy we are with a No. 12 seed, but in any case, we'll move ahead. … There's a lot of anticipation for what's to come.”
Among the things Skiba wished he could better anticipate is weather developments.
The potential storm problems led Apollo-Ridge to announce a two-hour delay for Tuesday. Skiba hopes no further action occurs this week, as district policy dictates that school cancellation extends to all extracurricular activities.
Hurricane Sandy might also affect Freeport's plans for Friday's home game. WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley announced Monday that teams with grass fields have until 9 a.m. Thursday to switch their game's location to a facility with artificial turf. After the deadline, the WPIAL alone can determine if an alternate location is necessary and will pick a neutral site.
O'Malley also said there's the possibility of postponing Friday games to 2 p.m. Saturday. He did not specify which happens first, the location change or the date change.
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-543-1303.