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Freeport basks in a fall to remember by honoring sports teams

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Freeport's Logan Thimons waves to the fans at the middle school gym while receiving recognition for his upcoming career at West Virginia. It was part of Freeport's Blue and Gold Madness in which they honored the accomplishments of the fall sports teams before introducing the basketball teams Monday, Nov. 23, 2015.
Dan Speicher | For Trib Total Media
Freeport's Logan Thimons waves to the fans at the middle school gym while receiving recognition for his upcoming career at West Virginia. It was part of Freeport's Blue and Gold Madness in which they honored the accomplishments of the fall sports teams before introducing the basketball teams Monday, Nov. 23, 2015.
Freeport basketball player Tyler Hettich (25), runs into a cheering crowd during Freeport's Blue and Gold Madness, at the middle school gym, on Monday, November 23, 2015.
Dan Speicher | For Trib Total Media
Freeport basketball player Tyler Hettich (25), runs into a cheering crowd during Freeport's Blue and Gold Madness, at the middle school gym, on Monday, November 23, 2015.
Freeport Area High School varsity cheerleader captain Marie Molinaro spins through the air during Freeport's Blue and Gold Madness, an annual event where fall sports teams are acknowledged for their accomplishments, and the basketball teams are introduced to the fans, at the Freeport Area Middle School gym, on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015.
Dan Speicher | For Trib Total Media
Freeport Area High School varsity cheerleader captain Marie Molinaro spins through the air during Freeport's Blue and Gold Madness, an annual event where fall sports teams are acknowledged for their accomplishments, and the basketball teams are introduced to the fans, at the Freeport Area Middle School gym, on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015.

Senior classes come and go at every high school, and their student-athletes often dash through four years of athletics with little fanfare.

But every so often, a special group comes along and provides much more than participation and school spirit.

Freeport has its own batch of game-changers this year, and they were lauded at the school's new middle school gymnasium Monday night before the basketball teams' annual “Blue and Gold Madness” event.

An event usually meant as a basketball meet-and-greet to usher in the winter season turned into a celebration of a fall season to remember.

Fans packed the parking lot and bleachers, creating a playoff-like atmosphere at the new “Hive.”

Three days after falling to the top-ranked team in the state, Freeport football players were honored for one of their most memorable playoff runs in years. The Yellowjackets finished 10-2 after a 36-14 loss to Aliquippa (12-0) in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals.

A season that nearly included a trip to Heinz Field will be remembered for the final games played at James Swartz Field.

Freeport said goodbye to their longtime home stadium. The Yellowjackets are expected to play on new artificial turf field next year on the high school campus.

The Yellowjackets made the semifinals for the first time since 1990, led by 13 seniors including West Virginia recruit Logan Thimons (defensive lineman), Ryan Weigold (quarterback/defensive back), Ian Miller (running back/linebacker), Josh Beale (tight end/linebacker), and the Hochbein twins, Dylan and Brandon, also standouts on both sides of the ball — among others.

“When we were in middle school, we knew we had potential to do something special,” Weigold said. “We wanted to go out with a bang and create memories. That's what we did.”

Freeport won the Allegheny Conference title with an 8-0 record.

“We felt it our time was now,” Weigold said. “We got so much support as we went along.”

Freeport also gave a tip of the cap to its volleyball players and golfers.

All of its fall teams qualified for the WPIAL playoffs.

The girls volleyball team, seamstresses of section and WPIAL championship banners at the school, powered through another section schedule and bounced back from a loss in last season's semifinals with a win over South Fayette in the final four. What followed was the team's third WPIAL title in six years, a 3-1 win over West Shamokin.

“It's really nice to all be recognized together,” said senior volleyball standout Zoe Pawlak, who has signed to play at Loyola (Md.). “We had a great season, and I am trainer for the football team and it was amazing to see them make it so far. To all be together here tonight was really special for the senior class.”

The Yellowjackets reached the PIAA quarterfinals before falling to Somerset.

After winning its first outright section title since 2012, the golf team made the WPIAL Class AA team championship tournament for the fourth straight time and finished fourth. Seniors Audrey Dougherty and Mickey Frazetta advanced to the individual finals, Dougherty for the fourth straight time. She tied for fourth and went on to place sixth at the PIAA tournament, an event in which she also made it 4 for 4 in qualifying.

“Our school is like one big family,” senior golfer Justin Hildenbrand said. “We all support each other in all sports.”

Frazetta tied for seventh at the WPIAL tournament and became the first male golfer from his school to make the PIAA West Regional tournament. He barely missed the state finals, falling short in a five-man playoff for the final spot. Golf coach Joe Sprumont said, “It was classy to honor all of the teams like that. Golf is not a spectator sport.”

The boys soccer team made the WPIAL Class AA playoffs and won a preliminary-round game over Mt. Pleasant before falling to eventual state runner-up South Park in the first round. The win was the Yellowjackets' first in the postseason since 2008.

The girls soccer team made the WPIAL Class AA playoffs for the third straight season.

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

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