Allegheny Conference rivals Kittanning, Freeport planning surprises for season opener
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Freeport coach John Gaillot and Kittanning coach Frank Fabian both like to leave no stone unturned when scouting opponents.
But for Week 1 games, there's plenty that hasn't even been put on film.
The team that comes out on top when the Yellowjackets and Wildcats meet for their fourth opener in six years is likely to be the team that makes the best adjustments on the fly during the first game of both the season and Allegheny Conference play.
Freeport used a surprise formation to get an early edge in last year's meeting, and the early offensive success helped the Yellowjackets hold on for a 32-21 win in Kittanning.
“Last year, we came out in a wishbone, and we hadn't shown that on film,” Gaillot said. “We ended up going 80 yards for a score on that drive. (Kittanning) adjusted well to it the rest of the game, but weathering that initial storm is the first thing to worry about in a first game.”
Fabian and his staff have their own plays they've stashed away through Kittanning's two scrimmages this year, and they have no doubt Freeport has again done the same.
“We all put wrinkles in over the summer. You worry about if you've seen everything, and chances are, the answer is no,” Fabian said. “The toughest thing is playing a good team in the first game, and that's exactly what Freeport is.”
The Yellowjackets return only one full-time starter on each side of the ball, so most of the Freeport lineup will be players making their first varsity start.
Junior quarterback Andrew Romanchak won the starting job in camp, and he brings plenty of speed to Freeport's run-heavy attack. Senior running back Josh Brestensky was just the first of many names Gaillot mentioned in his backfield, as the team will try to spread the ball around.
“No one's going to get a heavy dose. We've got a lot of backs that can all get carries,” Gaillot said.
Slowing the opponent's run game is always a priority for Kittanning, but especially this week against Freeport. The Wildcats allowed 304 yards on the ground in last year's meeting, and Fabian said a part of that was due to mental errors.
“We're working on making sure we're aligned properly, and we've come a long way from last year,” Fabian said. “We were going against a veteran group last year, and when we made errors, they made us pay.”
Kittanning will be turning to its own first-time starter at quarterback, junior Braydon Toy. Like Romanchak, Toy brings a lot of speed to the quarterback position, the Freeport coaches have taken notice.
“Kittanning isn't a good offense to have to play against your first game,” Gaillot said. “Their quarterback reminds me of Alex Isenberg that we used to have (in 2008 and 2009) because he's a shifty, hard-nosed runner.”
Gaillot also said the size in the middle of the Kittanning offensive line poses a challenge, but the biggest deciding factor will be which team handles the pressure of opening night.
“They have the advantage with more returners,” Gaillot said. “We just need to get our kids comfortable out there on offense and defense.”
“Freeport is really fast on defense, and they were impressive in their scrimmages,” Fabian said. “They don't have many starters back, but with 60 kids on their roster, they're going to find kids that can play.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.
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