Shade Side Academy escapes Freeport
With quick-strike plays, Freeport twice grabbed a lead against defending Class AA Allegheny Conference champion Shady Side Academy.
But Freeport struggled to stop Shady Side running back Brian Nickel, and the Indians used a grinding approach to pull out a 20-14 overtime win Friday night at James Swartz Memorial Field.
Nickel scored on a 10-yard push up the middle in the first extra period to lift Shady Side (2-0, 2-0) to its 17th consecutive conference win.
Nickel finished with 160 yards and three scores on 29 carries and one catch for 11 yards. He nearly equaled Freeport (179) in total yardage from the line of scrimmage.
"Sheer force of will," Shady Side coach Dave Havern said of Nickel. "He didn't want to lose. That's all there is to it. He didn't have a great first half, and we challenged him at halftime. He really responded."
Numerous times, Nickel ran right over tacklers.
"You've got to wrap him up," Freeport coach John Gaillot said. "That's my fault. I didn't work my players hard enough on that. These kids played their hearts out."
Freeport (1-1, 1-1) had a chance to win the contest in regulation, but Tyler Singer missed a 25-yard field goal about half way through the fourth quarter.
Freeport played inconsistently on offense throughout the game, although the Yellowjackets nearly produced enough big plays to win.
With 4:13 left in the second quarter, Freeport quarterback Alex Isenberg hit wide receiver Derek Durand for a 32-yard touchdown. Durand slipped loose behind Shady Side's defensive backs, and Isenberg lobbed the ball to him for the score. Singer added the extra point.
Shady Side tied the score at 7-7 with 4:50 left in the third period.
Marcell Ittner returned the following kickoff 69 yards for a touchdown to swing the game in Freeport's favor again. Ittner caught a short kick near the sideline, raced to the other side of the field, found a lane and sprinted along that sideline for the score.
Shady Side responded to tie the game at 14-14 with 11:53 left in the fourth quarter.
On its next possession, Freeport advanced the ball to Shady Side's 8-yard line. The highlight of the drive was when tight end Darius Frantz took a handoff and tossed a 40-yard completion to Tyler Collins, who fought off a defender for the catch. However, the Yellowjackets had to settle for a field-goal attempt, which was missed.
In overtime, both teams get a chance to score from their opponents 10-yard line. Freeport had the ball first, but on 2nd-and-goal, Isenberg was intercepted by Nickel near the goal line.
With his team now on offense, Nickel scored on the next play.
"Shady Side did a great job on defense," Gaillot said. "They're very well coached. We need to get consistent (on offense)."
Freeport played without senior running back/linebacker Mitch Shaw, who was on the sideline in street clothes and wearing a leg brace. Shaw is week-to-week, Gaillot said.
Havern was impressed with his team's spirit in the comeback win.
"Our guys were refusing to go down," Havern said. "They're the defending champions."