Burrell earns emotional win, still in hunt for playoff spot
In what has been a season of heartache, the Burrell football team has remained resilient.
Playing with heavy hearts, the Bucs continued their fight for a playoff spot with a 24-15 victory over Ford City on Friday night at Buccaneer Stadium.
The Allegheny Conference win was propelled by a 21-point second half by the Buccaneers on Senior Night.
In less than two months' time, the program has lost three major contributors — Tim Horwatt, Scott Fisher and most recently, Jim Liput, who died of a heart attack last weekend.
Liput was a long-time spotter in the press box for veteran announcer Butch Liput, who still called Friday's game. His grandson — Jim's son, James — last year's starting quarterback, served as a spotter.
Before the game, there was a moment of silence and a balloon release to honor the three men.
“It's 11 guys on the field at once, but the lineman really took charge of the game tonight,” Burrell coach Kevin Horwatt said. “It was an all-around effort on everyone's part.”
Burrell (3-4, 2-4) is in sixth place in the conference with two weeks to go. The top four teams qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.
Ford City (2-5, 1-5) went into halftime leading, 7-3. However, the second half turned in favor of Burrell from the opening drive.
Burrell junior running back Ryan Sowol anchored a seven-play drive, carrying the ball five times and plowing his way in from two yards out to give Burrell the lead 10-7.
Ford City senior running back Chantz Schrecengost fumbled and Burrell recovered at the Ford City 20.
“We're a young team,” Ford City coach John Bartolovic said. “Plays like the fumble to start the second half, we drop the ball and we give them the ball. When you're young, and not mentally tough, your heads drop and mistakes happen.”
Burrell quickly capitalized on the turnover. Sowol capped a short drive with a 5-yard touchdown. Sowol finished with 185 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries.
“Anytime you can put points on the board, and take advantage of other people's missed opportunities, it's big,” Horwatt said.
Down 17-7, Ford City squandered an opportunity to narrow the deficit, but a holding call brought back a touchdown and the drive ended with a missed field goal.
Ford City forced a turnover, recovering a Sowol fumble at its own 4 with 7:42 left, but the Sabers gave the ball right back.
Bucs senior Chad Tonks stepped in front of a Michael Bartosiewicz pass and rumbled down to the Ford City 10-yard line to essentially seal it for the Bucs.
Ford City added one last score when sophomore quarterback Anthony Falsetti hooked up with Zeke Walker for a 30-yard touchdown pass.
D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.