High school football Q&A with Jeannette’s Drake Petrillo
Drake Petrillo is a late bloomer to football. He joined Jeannette’s team in Week 3 last season.
But watching him play Friday, you would think he’d been playing defense all of his life.
Petrillo was a disruptive force from the middle of the Jeannette defensive line, ripping past blockers for 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles to help the Class A top-ranked Jayhawks (7-0) defeat No. 4 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 28-13, at McKee Stadium.
Jeannette forced five turnovers -- Marcus Barnes and Jackson Pruitt returned interceptions for scores -- and the defense held up on an epic third-quarter goal-line stand on the way to the team’s 13th straight win.
Petrillo’s technique has been learned over a short time, and he continues to tweak things as he tries to better understand the game’s finer points. But that endless energy came naturally.
“This is only his second year of football,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “Every play, his motor never stops. And he doesn’t have any bad habits. He’s one of our captains, and he leads by example.”
Petrillo (6-foot, 205 pounds) plays right guard or left tackle on offense and nose guard or defensive tackle on defense. He and senior quarterback Seth Howard came out for the team almost a month into last season, and they’re glad they did. Each had impacts on a WPIAL and PIAA championship run.
The juice has been as good as the squeeze for Petrillo, who spent most of last week’s win in OLSH’s backfield, celebratory and ornery, and raised his hands to the crowd to keep the intensity on full blast.
He made his first start in the second game against Clairton last season, in the WPIAL semifinals.
“I knew if I was going to play, I was going to come and play my heart out,” Petrillo said. “That’s how I play. And as a captain, I take that seriously. My job is to make sure the young guys know how to play like a Jeannette Jayhawk.”
Your main sport is baseball, where you also won a WPIAL championship as a first baseman. How have you made the switch to football so smoothly?
Baseball is my whole life. It’s what I want to do in college. Zack (Berginc) talked Seth and I into playing. We weren’t going to at first, but it’s been so much fun. Everyone loves to see the top dog get upset. Heck, I do, too, as a sports fan. It’s a challenge to stay at the top, but I love helping us try to do that.
How much did you know about the proud football tradition at Jeannette?
No city comes together for their football team like Jeannette. And we have great coaches. They do so much for the program. They have jobs and families, but they’re here every day for us.
Any quirky habits?
I am so into baseball. I keep my own scorebook during games. Every night, I check out the scores and try to figure out who should be the MVP. I think it’s Christian Yelich. The Brewers are winning it all.
Any pregame rituals?
Me and my friends all run home after school and then go eat before games. I always wear crop tops under my jersey. Gotta let the gut out. Have to be comfortable. I tried a long-sleeve shirt once and got too hot.
How much has your brother, Trevor, a third-year assistant coach and former center for Jeannette, impacted your still-fresh football career?
He never forced me to play. We talk about football all the time, and not just our team. He makes me continue to like the game. Me, him and my mom (Deidra) watch game film.
Your mom helps you break down film?
Yes. Last week, I come home and I’m thinking she’s going to say, ‘Hey, good game.’ But she’s like, ‘Dude, you I need to hold your blocks better because Seth was getting killed out there.’
Who has the best pizza in Jeannette?
Brooklyn’s or Christopher’s.
Who is the team’s class clown?
Zander (Malik) or Cam (Felbaum).
Who is the team’s bookworm?
Zack (Berginc) or Seth (Howard).
What do you do for fun?
I like to mess around with other sports. I love playing soccer. The sports I don’t play are the most fun. I think I could be good at soccer.
You’ve slimmed down over the last couple of years?
Yes. Seth and I joined LA Fitness, I was 225 (pounds) my sophomore year. I got down to 170 so I lost 50 pounds in six months. Now I’m around 205.