Freeport looks to rebuild offense
Freeport's offense exploded during the second half of the 2006 season, scoring a combined 166 points in three games.
But even before a huge loss to Ford City on the final night of the regular season, the second-half surge wasn't enough to vault the Yellowjackets into the WPIAL playoffs.
The team finished with a 5-4 overall record, 4-4 in conference play. Freeport also sustained substantial graduation losses, including its leading passer (Brian Zimmerman), leading rusher (Brady Sherrieb) and leading receiver (Cory Massart). Still, fourth-year head coach Bill Dillen is anxious to work some new players into the lineup.
"We have running back Kirk Naedele returning and linemen Mike Demeno, Denver Hoak and Mike Smolic, " Dillen said. "So we'll build around their capabilities."
Naedele rushed for 365 yards last season and was an All-Allegheny Conference honorable mention. Demeno, a guard, was recognized similarly.
The quarterback position at Freeport always has been a big deal, going back as far as the 1947 season when Bud Carson manned the position. Fast forward to 2007, and three candidates are vying for the job, including Matt Lucas, who was forced to see action last season when Zimmerman was injured.
Lucas responded with 135 yards passing in nine completions. The junior will be battling Tom Blythe and Alex Jacobus.
Despite a slim senior class, numberswise, the Yellowjackets have about 55 players out for the team. Getting experience quickly will make the two scrimmages more important than usual.
"I liked what I saw in passing camp, so we're anxious to see how they respond to the challenge," Dillen said.
Freeport opens the season at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The young Yellowjackets will have a major challenge as they begin the school's 86th football season against a veteran Shady Side Academy team.
Things don't get any easier the following two weeks, with Kittanning, Valley and Northgate coming up on the schedule.
"This could be a very open conference," Dillen said. "We have to grow up quick; we've got four tough games right off the bat."
While there will be plenty of new faces on the team, the coaching staff remains intact.
"We've had the same staff here in all four years," Dillen said. "They're very loyal, and we've been very lucky."
Freeport won't get a break from conference play until the eighth week of the season when the Yellowjackets visit Union Area. The top three teams in each Class AA conference are guaranteed playoff berths. The best fourth place team will get the wild-card berth.
Year opened: 1922
All-time record: 482-288-36
Head coach: Bill Dillen
Years at current post: 3
Record at current post: 15-12
Career record: 15-12
Passing Brian Zimmerman 47-of-92, 463 yds, 3 TDs
Rushing Brady Sherrieb 129 carries, 596 yds., 9 TDs
Receiving Cory Massart 9 catches, 87 yds.
Scoring Brady Sherrieb 54 points, 9 TDs
The past and present
Sept. 1 Shady Side Academy, 17-6 Sept. 8 at Kittanning, 14-34 Sept. 15 Valley, 14-15 Sept. 22 at Northgate, 7-6 Sept. 29 at Burrell, 6-16 Oct. 6 West Shamokin, 59-12 Oct. 13 Deer Lakes, 61-0 Oct. 20 Union, 46-0 Oct. 27 at Ford City, 0-53
Sept. 1 at Shady Side Academy, 12:30 p.m. Sept. 7 Kittanning, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at Valley, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21 Northgate, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 Burrell, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at West Shamokin, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at Deer Lakes, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at Union, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 Ford City, 7:30 p.m.
Freeport YellowjacketsConference: Class AA - Allegheny
Coach: Bill Dillen
Players to watch: Kirk Naedele, RB; Mike Demeno and Denver Hoak, DL.
Fast fact: This football season will be the 86th in school history.