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Freeport passing attack provides test for Apollo-Ridge

| Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, 8:54 p.m.
Dan Speicher | For Trib Total Media
Freeport quarterback Ryan Weigold (11) leads the team onto the field during the season opener against Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel, on Friday, September 4, 2015.
Dan Speicher | For Trib Total Media
Freeport wide receiver Dylan Hochbein (22) works the ball down field as Shady Side Academy's Neal McQuigg (44) forces him out of bounds during the season opener against Shady Side Academy on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in Fox Chapel.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Highlands' Tyler Sportelli hangs on to Apollo-Ridge's Duane Brown during the second half Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, at Apollo-Ridge.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Apollo-Ridge's Dillon Shipman runs past Highlands' Lamaar McKamey during the second half Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, at Apollo-Ridge.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Apollo-Ridge's Dylan Foster (left) and Devin Rametta (right) celebrate the team's second touchdown against Highlands on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, at Apollo-Ridge High School.

Freeport has lived up to the hype so far this season, its quarterback regaining form and a number of receivers getting into the act to create one of the top passing attacks in the A-K Valley.

The senior-led Yellowjackets (2-0, 2-0) will look to spread the field again Friday night against visiting Class AA No. 10 Apollo-Ridge (1-1, 0-1), a team suddenly draped in uncertainty with star junior running back Duane Brown likely out with a concussion.

Brown is a game changer, and his presence — or absence — can mean everything to an opponent's strategy and hopes.

“We have to game plan like Brown's playing,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said.

Brown ran for 226 yards in Week 1 and 148 last week in a 31-28 overtime loss to Highlands. He has scored seven touchdowns and is relentless on defense.

He is the last player the Vikings can afford to lose.

“We'll prepare the same way we do every week,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “We're a hodgepodge group as it is.”

Sophomore quarterback Kyle Fitzroy and senior fullback and linebacker Maurice Stankus also were dinged up after last week's game.

“At least it's only our second week in conference play,” said Skiba, whose first coaching job was at Freeport. “We'll have to have all our guys (healthy) if we want to make a run.”

Freeport senior quarterback Ryan Weigold, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, has been strong under center, completing 24 of 41 passes for a WPIAL-best 552 yards and six touchdowns with one interception.

“Ryan is getting more and more confident,” Gaillot said. “All of the kids are. We were a little shy of that last year.”

Freeport's top two receivers have been senior twins Brandon and Dylan Hochbein. Brandon has six catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns, Dylan seven catches for 114 yards. Justin Brestensky has two receiving scores.

“We have been clicking on all cylinders for the most part,” Gaillot said of the passing game.

Newcomers Josh Beale and Kris Keppel have added pass-catching threats, with Beale also lining up at quarterback in certain packages.

“Beale gives them options as a Wildcat guy,” Skiba said.

West Virginia recruit Logan Thimons has been dominant on defense as a down lineman for Freeport. He has 4.5 sacks in two games.

“Logan runs through people like they're 10 yards in front of him,” Gaillot said.

“Logan will be Logan,” Skiba said.

Gaillot said Apollo-Ridge senior Dillon Shipman also is a cause for concern. Shipman scored on an 85-yard kickoff return and caught a 90-yard pass from Brown last week.

With less depth than Freeport, though, the Vikings will not be left to their own devices.

“We'll put some sets together and see what we can do,” Skiba said. “Freeport is definitely strong at the skill positions.

“Our kids play hard enough to win. We just have to understand how to play better in certain situations.”

Freeport has allowed only seven points in two games.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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