The Freedom Patriots are extremely familiar foes for Parkland High Schools football team at this point.
But theyre extra familiar for Angel Santos.
The Trojans senior played with the current Patriots until moving out of the Bethlehem Area School District in the eighth grade and his two brothers, Andres and Joseph, competed for Freedom a handful of years ago.
It's a big game for me because I know all the kids there, said Santos, a middle linebacker/running back. I went to school with them. I was supposed to play with them, but I moved over here and now I'm playing for Parkland.
Friday night will mark the fourth straight year the Trojans (9-2) will meet Freedom (10-1) in the postseason. The second-seeded Patriots host third-seeded Parkland in the District 11 Class 6A semifinals at Bethlehem Area School District Stadium.
Parkland has the wind at its back, with seven consecutive wins after a 2-2 start. One of those early setbacks was a 21-18 defeat to Freedom.
I think they've been hungry the whole year, coming from 2-2 with their backs against the wall, Parkland coach Tim Moncman said of his players. This is our fourth time (playing Freedom) in two years and they've won the last three. We just hope to play our best and see what happens.
Parklands early season injuries have been well-reported. The Trojans will enter Fridays semifinal with more tools at their disposal compared to their first meeting with Freedom, particularly as Moncman noted, senior offensive tackle Nick Dawkins, a Penn State recruit.
Parkland has also been clamping down on opposing offenses. The Trojans are allowing an average of 10.3 points per game over their last seven victories.
Defensively, we have a couple bodies back, but we're just clicking, Moncman said. We're playing pretty well running to the ball, swarming to the ball.
Our defense has been key, Santos said. Our defense has been great, and it's been stopping everyone. And our offense is getting better and better every week.
While the team has dealt with ailments at different areas, Santos has been a steady presence in the middle of the D all season.
He's the captain of the defense, Moncman said. He makes all the calls and gets there with a purpose.
Santos, who is listed at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds, can certainly make the pads pop when he reaches the ball-carrier.
He is as blue-collar as it gets, Moncman said.
The middle linebacker and his teammates have a tall task in slowing down the Patriots, who are the defending District 11 Class 6A champions.
(Quarterback Jared) Jenkins makes all the right decisions, Moncman said. I think (Jalen) Stewart and (Matty) Russin are as good a 1-2 punch as you could see. They'd be primary backs for anybody. So, they're explosive on offense and come after you on defense.
Santos leads the Trojans with 88 tackles, including eight TFLs and three sacks.
Hes also an effective change-of-pace back behind junior Isiah Rico (200 carries, 1,289 yards, 16 touchdowns).
We'll use him at running back and he's a beast to bring down, Moncman said.
Santos has taken 39 carries for 302 yards and six touchdowns.
I try to get as much as I can, Santos said of playing running back. I try not to let anyone take me down 1-on-1.
A steady running game will be important for Parkland as sophomore quarterback Ty Tremba (58-for-107, 964 yards, 8 TDs, 5 INTs), who took over near the midway point of the regular season, enters the biggest start of his young career.
I think the switch at quarterback has sparked us quite a bit, Moncman said.
Santos knows the rushing attack is important. He also knows that his strength is a major element of his game, and he credits his work with the Parkland power-lifting team for some of the advancements in that area.
It was a great experience lifting with them, the senior said. Everyone was getting stronger and stronger.
Santos found a little motivation from within his family when he worked in the weight room.
When I was younger and my brothers were playing for Freedom, I used to work out with them all the time, he said. ... When I got here and I saw (the power-lifting team), my goal became to lift more than my brother (Andres).
Has he reached that goal?
Just by a little bit, Santos said with a laugh.
Right now, the senior is more focused on beating his brothers old team.
RELATED: High school football predictions for Week 12
Kyle Craig may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KyleCraigSports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.
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- Bagram's Afghan music night is the American base's other 'sound of freedom' - Stars and Stripes - January 1st, 2020
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