Freeport clinches playoff spot with rout of Mt. Pleasant
Freeport, mired in last place in the Big East Conference after three games, won its fifth straight Friday, 41-7, over visiting Mt. Pleasant.
The victory qualifies the Yellowjackets for the WPIAL playoffs for the 28th time in school’s history.
Austin Romanchak ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He added a second-half scoring pass to Evan McCrea.
Conor Selinger scored three rushing touchdowns as Freeport (5-3, 5-3) won the first game between the two schools.
But it was Freeport’s defense that set up several short scoring drives and held the Vikings to four first downs over the first three quarters.
“We’re very blessed to have the group of seniors we have,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “Our defense has been solid. About four weeks ago, we asked a couple kids to change positions. They’ve been able to do some dynamic things.”
After Freeport opened the scoring on a two-play, 72-yard drive with Isiah Bowman carrying 36 yards and Romanchak the other 36, the Yellowjackets set up possessions on the Mt. Pleasant 44, 22 and 20.
Selinger scored touchdowns to end all three possessions and give the Yellowjackets a 28-0 lead with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left in the half.
The highlight of Freeport’s third touchdown drive was Garret Schaffhauser leaping between two defenders to catch a 20-yard pass at the Mt. Pleasant 2.
“We get better every week,” Gaillot said. “We’re really starting to click offensively. We had some kids in new positions, and it took a long time to jell.”
The short drives made things easy for center Garrett Ben and his linemates.
“We were just able to get down there and score quickly,” Ben said. “We were driving early and then fumbled, and after that we were just sticking to our game plan.”
Mt. Pleasant (1-8, 1-6) had good field position early, picking up a Freeport fumble and starting a drive late in the first quarter on the Freeport 36 before losing the ball on downs.
The Vikings also had a touchdown called back with a holding penalty at the Yellowjackets 21. A sack and another penalty forced Mt. Pleasant to punt.
“You can’t have it,” Vikings coach Jason Fazekas said of the crucial penalties. “In the beginning, we had penalties on almost every possession. You can’t do it against a good team. That touchdown that was called back. That was a big one.”
Romanchak’s 52-yard return on the second-half kickoff put Freeport in business again at the Vikings 36. Six plays later, Romanchak found McCrea in the corner of the end zone.
Romanchak’s 1-yard burst put Freeport ahead, 41-0, with 3:39 left in the third quarter to start the PIAA’s running clock rules.
A bright spot for Mt. Pleasant was J.J. Johnson, who carried 17 times and caught three passes for 21 yards, including a 9-yard pass from freshman Asher O’ Conner to put the Vikings on the scoreboard with 2:58 to go.
“Our injuries were real bad this year,” Fazekas said. “We’re searching here a little bit, trying to be competitive. Johnson’s special, and I’m trying to get the ball to him more.”
Freeport has a nonconference game at Knoch on Friday to conclude the regular season.