Freeport, Ford City quarterbacks turn friendship into rivalry
Ford City senior Dave Lattanzio considers a few Freeport football players among his closest friends. He hangs out at their houses, and they joke with each other about transferring in order to play on the same team.
The week of the Ford City-Freeport game changes the dynamic, though.
Lattanzio and the Sabers (0-1, 0-1) will host Freeport (1-0, 1-0) on Friday in a critical Allegheny Conference contest. Friendship between Lattanzio and Freeport starters such as quarterback Brendan Lynch and running back Travis Hall won't disappear altogether. But the relationship, competitive on even the most uneventful days, ascends to rival status.
“We just want to beat each other,” Lattanzio said. “There's a lot of trash talking. … We say some pretty funny things to each other during games.”
The winner of the Freeport-Ford City game has claimed or shared the conference title each of the last three years. Freeport prevailed, 28-3, in 2011. Ford City won, 20-0, the season before.
This year will determine who gets bragging rights for years to come. As multiyear, two-way starters at quarterback and defensive back, Lattanzio and Lynch share especially similar legacies.
“If you play another position, it's hard to understand what we are going through, so we always talk to each other about what's going on at quarterback for our respective teams,” Lynch said. “It's kind of a strong bond.”
Lattanzio's link to the Freeport boys stemmed from a travel baseball team, the Allegheny Braves. As seventh and eighth graders, Lattanzio and fellow Ford City classmate Justin Retzer belonged to the team, which also included a few Kittanning athletes but was mostly made up of Freeport players.
Ford City and Freeport did not play each other in football during those two years, so the boys recognized each other as teammates more so than opponents, though competition among basketball players already existed.
In 10th grade, Lattanzio finally squared off with his friends on the gridiron. Excitement among the boys for Freeport-Ford City game has grown as their respective roles became more important.
“(Football) made (the friendship) more competitive, for sure,” Hall said. “Just trying to be the best in everything, but especially football, because that's the biggest sport we have. So we try to go at each other even harder.”
During most of the year, competition centers on video games. The boys usually gather at Hall's house and square off in hockey, NCAA football or — Lattanzio's personal favorite — Mario Kart.
“Mario Kart always gets wild because we're both really good at it,” Hall said. “Normally, he ends up beating me. But in most other games, I beat him.”
Lattanzio disputed Hall's claim. And Lynch broke the tie with his own input.
“When it comes to video games, that's Dave's strong point,” Lynch said. “Everybody loses to him. He's good at all of them.”
The boys laugh about video game-related trash-talking. They tolerate the ribbing that's associated with football. Sports only divide them in a superficial way.
“He fits in with us really well,” Hall said. “So it's just like having another friend over, except it's more competition because he's from Ford City.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303, Ext. 1321.