PG East: After 3-6 season, Burrell gets off to dynamic start
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The Burrell High School football team begins the most challenging part of its 2009 schedule with tomorrow's game at Deer Lakes.
The Buccaneers have three of their next four games on the road.
"I didn't even realize that," Burrell coach Tom Henderson said. "My only concern is getting ready for Deer Lakes. They beat us by one point [21-20] last year. We can't afford to look ahead."
Burrell returns home for next week's game against Summit Academy, then goes back on the road for games at Freeport and Shady Side Academy.
"We had all three of those games at home last year and lost all three," said Henderson, referring to the games with Deer Lakes, Freeport, and Shady Side Academy. "We lost by one touchdown to Freeport, then were outmatched against Shady Side.
"We can't afford to lose all three this year. It would be very tough to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs with three losses that early in the season."
Burrell posted a 3-6 record last year in Henderson's return to the sidelines.
"I coached 13 years, then got out for two years," Henderson said. "It was tough last year because the kids were learning a new system, both offensively and defensively. It was like teaching them a new language."
Henderson entered this season with high hopes, as nine starters returned on each side of the ball. The Buccaneers were very impressive in Friday's 63-0 season-opening rout against West Shamokin.
"I was very impressed with our effort on Friday, but we still have areas where we need to improve," Henderson said. "Having so many starters back on both sides of the ball has really helped. The kids know what to expect from me and I know what they can do."
Henderson also realized that a couple of his returning starters needed a position change.
"I had John Gigler playing outside linebacker last year," said Henderson. "He came to me during the offseason and requested a change to inside linebacker. He lit the world on fire in our first game."
Burrell's 63-0 win against West Shamokin was a total team effort. Cameron Nelson, Dayne Williams, Jesse Burton, Nolan Greenwald and Jeremy Shybloski all rushed for touchdowns, while Frank Perriello caught a scoring strike from Nelson. Jesse Burton and Dave Yakopec scored on special teams, while Jon Novak scored on defense by returning a fumble."
"Everybody played a part in our victory," Henderson said. "It was a total team effort. It was especially nice to see it come in a season opener. We need to have the same intensity in every game."
Nelson and Yakopec combined to form one of the most potent passing combos in the Allegheny Conference last year. Nelson, a second-team all-conference selection, threw for 1,294 yards and 12 touchdowns, while rushing for 713. Yakopec, a first-team all-conference selection, had 29 receptions and 376 yards.
"Cam [Nelson] makes us tick," Henderson said. "He can throw the ball and is also a threat to run. He's very quiet, but a good student of the game. He will often tell me what he's doing wrong before I tell him.
"Cam's success is even more impressive when you realize its only his second year of football. He played golf as a sophomore. In fact, Cam has challenged me to a game of golf. He shoots in the 70s. I don't think I can match that. He's a great kid to be around."
Three other all-conference players are back. Kicker Brian Shaw was a first-team selection. Chris Linden was a second-team pick at both defensive back and wide receiver. Mark Kaczanowicz was a second-team choice at safety, but has since moved to outside linebacker.
"We're off to a good start, but we have to get better," Henderson said. "The enthusiasm in practice is getting better each day. And the leadership has been fantastic. Now we're hoping to get some revenge in the next few weeks."
First Published September 10, 2009 12:00 am