Preview: Freedom at East Allegheny

A look at how Freedom stacks up against its first-round opponent

Devin Daley, Managing Editor

Freedom football has been awarded the number 12 seed in the WPIAL 2A playoffs and will head to East Allegheny to visit the fifth seeded Wildcats in the first round. The Wild Cats had a 7-3 record overall while going 6-1 in their section. East Allegheny finished runner-up in the Three Rivers Conference with their only section loss coming against Steel Valley, who won the section.

Freedom and East Allegheny shared two common opponents as they each faced Brentwood and Neshannock. East Allegheny split these two games, winning at home against Brentwood 21-12 and losing away to Neshannock 50-22. Freedom lost to both teams, as they lost at Brentwood 21-14 and at home on Oct. 21 against Neshannock by a score of 18-10 . The more eye-catching of these two results is Freedom’s eight-point margin of defeat versus East Allegheny’s 28-point margin of defeat. Despite the fact that Freedom lost to Neshannock by less than East Allegheny did, it cannot be ignored that the Wildcats picked up a win against Brentwood, who the Bulldogs lost to early on in the season.

If the Bulldogs are to pick up a victory over the Wildcats in the first round, they will have to limit the effect that East Allegheny junior TJ Banks has in the game. Banks plays both tight end and outside linebacker for East Allegheny and is the Wildcats leading receiver this year as well as the team’s second leading scorer with eight touchdowns. In addition to Banks, Freedom will have to stop the Wildcats’ junior running back Jahi Rox, who leads the team in scoring on the year and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry on the year.

The Bulldogs have their own dominant receiver to combat Banks and getting senior Nick Henderson involved will be imperative if the Bulldogs want to pull off an upset. Henderson’s 899 receiving yards through this season is one of the best marks in the WPIAL, and getting the ball into his hands will be ever important to the Bulldogs’ success in their first playoff appearance since 2012.

The Bulldogs will have to prepare for the balanced East Allegheny attack that has shown the ability to pass or run this year. Much of this pressure will be on the Bulldog secondary to stop the deep passes and rushes to the outside that have proven costly to them on the year.

Overall, the Bulldogs will face a challenge as the 12 seed in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs, but a win is certainly not out of the question as long as they contain Banks and are able to move the ball efficiently through the air and get Henderson involved in the game as often as they can.