Freeport hopes to balance strong run game with passing attack
Freeport possesses many ingredients of a playoff team: eight returning regulars on both sides of the ball, Division I-caliber linemen, a prolific running back, and a senior entering his third season as the starting quarterback.
Freeport coach John Gaillot believes this edition of the Yellowjackets can be better than last year's co-Allegheny Conference championship team, and adding zing to the passing game could be the key.
Last season, Freeport (7-3, 6-1) pushed around opponents with a no-nonsense ground attack but didn't move the ball as effectively through the air.
“We definitely need to throw the ball more than twice a game,” Gaillot said. “There were times we did that last year. We have to get it in the air. The receivers have really come on and have been catching very well. It would be huge if we have that. It should open up the running game more, too.”
The passing game revolves around senior quarterback Brendan Lynch, who completed 37 of 67 passes for 598 yards and seven touchdowns in his second year as the starter. Lynch was named to the all-conference second team at quarterback and first team at defensive back. Gaillot hopes to get Lynch more involved as a rusher and passer.
Lynch's targets at wide receiver and tight end will include Josh Brestensky, Tony DeVivo, Travis Hall, Jesse Hubert and Dustin Koedel. None of them had more than five catches last year.
Freeport figures to put together a productive running game again.
Senior Damon Smith earned all-conference first-team recognition at running back after collecting 1,381 yards and 18 touchdowns on 240 carries last year.
The offensive line will feature senior Shane McKillop, a late bloomer who has started to receive Division I interest from Cincinnati; senior guard Brian Welsh, an all-conference second-teamer who's considering attending the Naval Academy; and junior tackle Nathan Rummel, an all-conference first-teamer.
“We're banking on being able to run the ball well,” said Gaillot, who has guided Freeport to the WPIAL playoffs in all four of seasons as coach.
Welsh is a standout on the other side of the ball, too, and was named co-Allegheny Conference Defensive Player of the Year after recording 80 tackles and 10 sacks as a defensive tackle last season.
“He's so quick,” Gaillot said. “He looks faster than last year.”
Senior linebackers Alec Stivers and Josh Wisniewski earned all-conference first-team honors last year.
The speedy Koedel, a cornerback, was a second-teamer at defensive back and kick returner.
Gaillot believes the Allegheny Conference will be much improved this season because several top teams return the majority of their starters and Kittanning and Valley were realigned from Class AAA.
“(The conference title) might come down to who has the least amount of injuries to key kids,” Gaillot said.