Many new faces among Freeport starters
Without a hint of irony, Freeport senior Cam Kelley recently described the Yellowjackets as “basically a new team.”
Freeport, of course, is not starting from scratch — its history includes more than 900 games.
Kelley isn't too far off, though.
Just one full-season starter returns on each side of the ball for Freeport, which split the Allegheny Conference title with Burrell last season and then graduated 21 players in the spring.
A few other Yellowjackets are back after contributing as part-timers, but overall, opportunities for playmakers to step forward abound.
“It's like a puzzle,” coach John Gaillot said. “We have the pieces there. We just have to find and put the right pieces in the right spots.”
Senior Nathan Rummel (6-foot-3, 280 pounds), a first-team all-conference tackle, will anchor the offensive line as the lone returning starter on that side of the ball. Kelley (6-2, 190) returns after starting at defensive end, where he made 40 tackles and had 4.5 sacks.
“It's our year to get everybody motivated and get everybody excited,” Kelley said. “Everybody is just really pumped up for the season in general and filling a position.
“It gives guys a lot of motivation when we hear people say we're going to lose this many games or we're not going to go as far as we did last year. Every day is a fight to work harder because we hear that kind of negativity from other people.”
Senior Josh Brestensky saw time at wide receiver and kicker, but a concussion left him sidelined for almost half the season. A shoulder injury ruined a promising season for then-sophomore running back Codey Digiacobbe. Both are versatile enough to give Freeport flexibility with its lineups.
“I kind of embrace (the pressure),” Brestensky said. “It's all about motivation, and everyone is on each other. … People are nervous right now, but we'll be fine.
“I'm trying to basically be the best for my teammates. I'm trying to make sure everyone knows their role, everyone is calmed down when they need to be, and no one is getting nervous. Just making sure I'm there for everyone when they need it.”
Junior speedsters Jesse Hubert and Andrew Romanchak and sophomore lineman Logan Thimons look to embrace enhanced roles after stepping on the field for limited action as underclassmen.
Romanchak entered camp in a competition with sophomore Ryan Weigold for the starting quarterback job.
“I don't want to go into the first regular-season game without a (definite) starting quarterback or having that dilemma,” Gaillot said. “I want to make a decision before then.”
Gaillot said Freeport is fortunate to have a roster that might include as many as 60 players, and he is confident depth will not be a concern. The trick is to find the inexperienced players who learn and mature the fastest.
“I like everything they did on JVs,” Gaillot said. “It's just that varsity speed, it's a totally different breed.”
The Yellowjackets have not missed the playoffs since Gaillot took over as coach in 2008. Even with such an inexperienced group, Gaillot doesn't expect that streak to end.
“We never rebuild with Freeport football,” he said. “That's our attitude. That might be arrogant or cocky, but that's just our mentality. We don't believe in rebuilding.”