Last year's upset loss in first round motivates Freeport
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The slogan for Freeport football's 2012 season — the one that ultimately appeared on the seniors' group photo — first emerged when the Yellowjackets' current seniors returned to the weight room last winter.
Just a few weeks removed from a 33-26 first-round upset loss to No. 13 seed Ellwood City in which they allowed 22 fourth-quarter points, the players spoke of “unfinished business.”
Cue the light bulb.
“We felt we left something on the table with that loss,” said senior quarterback Brendan Lynch, a third-year starter. “We felt we had more to give.”
This season, Freeport went 7-2 overall and shared an Allegheny Conference title, just as it did in 2011. On Friday at nearby Highlands, the opportunity for the No. 7 seed Yellowjackets to separate from last season's path arrives, as they meet No. 10 Beaver Falls (7-2), another opponent from the vaunted Midwestern Conference.
“We still have that bad taste in our mouths from walking off the field last year after that loss,” Lynch said. “We don't want to look past anyone this time.”
Freeport's seniors understand the dangers of preconceived notions about opponents. As sophomores, many contributed to a 30-22 upset of No. 6 Jeannette — the playoff win was Freeport's first since 2002.
Last season, the Yellowjackets went into the first round with aspirations of advancing even further. They drew Ellwood City, a 6-3 team that placed fourth in the Midwestern Conference. Confidence ran high.
“We thought it'd definitely be a tough game, but we thought we'd win,” Lynch said.
The first quarter failed to dampen Freeport's optimism. On the Yellowjackets' first play from scrimmage, Lynch ran 75 yards for a touchdown. By halftime, Freeport led, 19-11, and that margin increased to 26-11 after three quarters.
But Ellwood City refused to fade. Instead, it rallied with a run sparked by a 70-yard halfback pass.
“We were so young last year — we only had three returning starters,” coach John Gaillot said. “We jumped out to a big lead and we didn't know how to play with a big lead. They hit a couple trick plays and got right back in it, and it was almost like we were never in that position, so the nerves kind of got to them. But we should be ready this year.”
Beaver Falls possesses plenty of big-play potential, so Freeport might need to worry just as much about not falling behind early. Quarterback Dan Stratton, a 1,100-yard passer, has averaged more than 20 yards per completion.
Freeport will look to control the clock with its recently adopted shotgun zone-fly offense, which has produced almost 2,200 rushing yards.
The Yellowjackets believe they're prepared for any scenario. And after seeing the misery on the faces of last season's seniors, they're motivated to avoid a first-round upset, something Freeport failed to do the past three times it had the higher seed.
“We know we're capable of winning it,” senior defensive lineman Brian Welsh said. “(Last year) was one of the worst feelings of my life. We don't want to feel that way again.
“I just remember watching the seniors walk off our field after the last game of their careers. It was hard enough to watch them.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Malkin could return Wednesday at Edmonton
- Tennessee QB considers transfer to Pitt
- Westmoreland Museum makeover draws raves
- Pitt upsets No. 8 Notre Dame to snap losing streak
- Sax player finds fulfillment in new home
- Exhibit at Kerr Museum in Oakmont explores grief during Victorian times
- Statewide program planned to train first responders on hazards of natural gas vehicles
- Burrell wrestling wins 9th straight Class AA team title
- Outdoor notices: Feb. 1, 2015
- Franklin Regional wrestling rallies to top Belle Vernon, defend team title
- Attorney’s military bearing belied giving nature