East Penn Press

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Two 7-0 teams meet Friday night

Thursday, October 11, 2018 by STEPHEN ALTHOUSE Special to the Press in Sports

The Emmaus has already had two memorable confrontations this season, one against Nazareth and another against Easton. This week’s battle could be even better.

The undefeated Freedom Patriots (7-0, 5-0 EPC) should prove to be a worthy nemesis for the Green Hornets Friday at 7 p.m. at East Penn School District Stadium. It is a match up of two talented offensive teams and rugged defenses.

Coach Jason Roeder’s Freedom squad has played big games this season and come through in the clutch. They won a thriller over Parkland 21-20 in the season’s third game, and surprisingly dumped Easton last week with ease, 35-7.

Patriots junior quarterback Jared Jenkins is having an MVP type season. He’s thrown 18 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. He is also completing 59.4 percent of his passes for 1,149 yards.

“Jenkins can throw the ball almost anywhere,” Emmaus coach Harold Fairclough said.

Freedom has more than a one-dimensional offensive attack.

It’s ground attack features the running of Matt Russin (43 rushes for 514 yards and a 12-yard per rush average) Jalen Stewart (75 carries for 389 yards and a 5.2 per rush average ) and Sebastian Gibbs (39-257 yards and 6.6 yards per carry).

Jenkins is a known commodity, but the running attack has exceeded expectations. The ground assault has been a huge factor in Freedom’s undefeated mark seven games into the season.

“They also have a well-balanced running game,” said Fairclough. “Overall we’re going have to play a balanced defensive game and fly to the ball.”

The Patriots have plenty playmakers to catch Jenkins’ darts. Rontay Dunbar has been Freedom’s most consistent target this season. He has caught 24 passes for 441 yards and three touchdowns. He has help from Gabriel Caton (17 for 256 yards, six touchdowns) and Vincent Reph (18 for 221 yards and five touchdowns). The Patriots also utilize their backs periodically to gain modest, but consistent yardage.

At times this season the Patriot offense has been virtually unstoppable. They’ve scored 313 points for an average of nearly 45 points per game. They’ve acquired over 2,600 of gridiron turf and picked up 117 first downs in the process.

Defensively Freedom is also outstanding. Hornet fans are likely to see linebacker Tristan Wheeler shedding blocks and punishing ball carriers. He leads the team in tackles (49) and is a stud, but teammates Judah Rock, Jakub Szemiako, John Gawlik, Darryl Shands and the previously mentioned Stewart are all quality players and hard hitters.

“By far this is the best defensive football team we have faced (this season),” Fairclough says. “They have big guys up front who can move.” That allows the Freedom linebacker unit to make a lot of tackles from sideline-to-sideline.

The Pats also have snipers in the defensive backfield and are described by the coach as “ball hawks.”

The unit is surrendering 15.4 points per game, an improvement from last year’s mark when they gave up nearly 21 points per week. T

hey have also allowed only 11 rushing plays of 15 yards or more during the entire season.

“They are a good tackling team and they just don’t miss many assignments,” Fairclough says.

There is also a revenge factor to the game as Freedom has knocked Emmaus out of the district playoffs in each of the past two seasons on their way to district title game appearances that they lost to Parkland both seasons.