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Valley News Dispatch Q&A: Burrell's Ryan Sowol

Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Burrell's Ryan Sowol (3) runs the ball against Valley's Ty Matthews (12) during the first half on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at Valley Memorial Stadium in New Kensington.

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Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 12:06 a.m.

For the second straight year, the bulk of Burrell's offensive production has become the responsibility of one very busy ball carrier.

Junior Ryan Sowol is the successor to 2012 standout Cole Bush, who finished the regular season with 1,794 yards and 33 touchdowns. Burrell trusted Bush to carry the ball 230 times in 10 games.

Sowol (6-foot, 185 pounds) has shouldered a similar workload, particularly in the last few weeks. A week ago, he carried the ball 46 times for 175 yards in a loss to East Allegheny.

He entered the season expecting to share carries with senior running back Mitch Pollino, but Pollino suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 1, so Sowol became the de facto feature back.

Sowol, who also plays baseball and wrestled for the first time last winter, has gained 893 yards and scored nine touchdowns on 186 carries this season — no other player has more than 123 rushing yards. He also starts at outside linebacker, where he's made a team-high 31 tackles.

Q: Coming into this season, did you expect to get the ball 30-plus times a game?

A: I had no idea that that would happen. Our whole offense changed after we lost Cole (Bush). We were ground-and-pound, but then this year, we wanted to try to spread it out a little bit. But obviously we kind of have gotten away from that, and now we're grounding and pounding it with me.

Q: When did that shift in strategy happen?

A: I'd have to say it was after that Valley week (Week 2) that we kind of changed our offense a little bit and decided we'd do what we did before and see what happens.

Q: How did Pollino's injury affect your role, even before the team changed its offensive strategy?

A: That kind of put more of the weight on my shoulders for me to carry the load at the tailback spot. … I was pretty excited, because it's always nice to be the guy, where you know you're getting the ball. But Mitch getting hurt was a terrible loss for us, because he's a great player and we could've used him this year.

Q: Did you have worry about taking over the role that Cole had last year?

A: Yeah, I was a little nervous, because obviously filling Cole's shoes, he was one of the best football players in Burrell history. But everything has kind of settled down, and I'm comfortable with everything that's happening.

Q: You started wrestling a year ago with no prior experience. Why?

A: Derrick Beattie got injured in football season last year, so they needed a 170-pounder. I figured I'd try it out and see what happens. … I have a lot of friends that wrestle, and everyone kept nagging me to try it. They said it'd be a lot of fun, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun.

Q: How did wrestling shape you as an athlete?

A: The practices are definitely grueling. It's definitely one of the toughest sports I've ever played — probably the toughest. And I'm probably in better shape for football this year because of all the workouts.

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