Jalen Fletcher and Sonny Sasso from Freedom put on a show – The Morning Call
There have been memorable matches and particular performances each weekend all through the 2022 East Pennsylvania Convention soccer season.
However one which stood out above most others was the September 17 match between Freedom and Nazareth on the Bethlehem Space Faculty District Stadium.
The Blue Eagles have been undefeated and the Patriots have been attempting to maintain their footing agency after a 1-2 begin with a loss to Emmaus and Parkland.
It was a enjoyable backwards and forwards struggle. Jalen Fletcher rushed for 194 yards and scored two targets for the Patriots, and Sonny Sasso threw for 298 yards and three factors for the Blue Eagles.
Their worlds collided when Fletcher caught a Sasso move and returned 17 yards for the definitive rating in a 45-35 Freedom win. This was Sasso’s first interception all season.
Nazareth would go on a six-game profitable streak to shut the common season and win the EPC South. In the meantime, the Patriots’ victory that evening set off an 8-game profitable streak that might take them again to the District 11 6A championship sport.
Fletcher and Sasso have been the primary characters of their staff’s success tales once they took middle stage at BSD that evening.
Fletcher completed the season with an EPC-best run of 1,422 yards and 22 targets, whereas Sasso had a complete of 1,972 passes and 21 factors.
The one EPC quarterbacks to throw extra yards – Emmaus’s Jake Fotta (2,098), Parkland’s Luke Spang (2,088) and Whitehall’s Trey Dogmanits (1,997) greater than Sasso, who was injured early within the common season finale in opposition to Sasso. performed within the match. He missed out on Easton and the staff’s 6A quarterfinals loss to Parkland.
However Sasso, like Fletcher, has achieved greater than sufficient to grow to be one of the vital dominant gamers within the area, and the headstrong Nazareth quarterback and hard-working Freedom back-back was named The Morning Name’s assistant attacker of the yr on the EPC this yr. 2022 season.
Fletcher was not an unknown commodity getting into the season. He gained 301 yards final season with 35 pictures and three touchdowns, however was eclipsed by Deante Crawford, who rushed for 1,719 yards and 25 touchdowns on the Patriots offense, and quarterback Brian Taylor, who ran for 591 yards and scored 1,526 passes.
This yr, Fletcher took the ball and ran with it to nice success.
“We knew what we had in Jalen for a very long time,” mentioned Freedom coach Jason Roeder. “He appeared in our youth program and we stored him in youth camp when he was just a little boy. The ball was at all times explosive. He was that child operating to attain when he first touched the ball thrice in flag soccer. So we knew who he was coming with.”
Fletcher began as second and third class on protection, and Roeder tried to get him on the offensive line as a lot as potential in 2021. He performed within the slot and reciprocated, however final yr he carried the load.
Based on Roeder, among the best issues about Fletcher was his curiosity in soccer.
“I did not need to speak about all of it yr as a result of I did not need to carry him unhealthy luck, but it surely wasn’t clumsy,” Roeder mentioned. “He was that workhorse we have been fortunate to have through the years.”
Roeder mentioned Fletcher additionally had an excellent angle and labored exhausting within the low season to organize for the extra workload.
“He performed to the benefit on each side of the ball, and that is one thing the remainder of our guys are bothering about,” Roeder mentioned.
Fletcher went from soccer area to basketball courtroom virtually immediately, turning into Joe Stellato’s first participant on the boys’s basketball staff. He helped the Patriots get off to a 7-3 begin and win the Pine Grove Space’s Cardinal Basic earlier this week.
“I really feel like I’ve performed soccer and basketball my entire life, so it is not exhausting to steadiness the 2,” he mentioned. “I believe I began after I was in third grade. I have been doing it for a very long time.”
Fletcher’s father, Ambrose, performed on Penn State’s 1994 Huge Ten championship staff. He took the 73-yard kickoff to finish a season 12-0 within the Nittany Lions’ 38-20 Rose Bowl win over Oregon.
Jalen’s older brother, AJ Fletcher, was a outstanding basketball and soccer participant at Freedom, graduating in 2021 and at present taking part in soccer at Lackawanna Faculty.
Taking part in bigger than his 5-foot-10,175-pound body signifies, Fletcher was disenchanted that the Patriots could not repeat as regional champions, however nonetheless described the season as “nice.” He is been in athletics lengthy sufficient to know you possibly can’t do it by yourself.
“I could not undergo my yr with out my teammates boosting my confidence,” he mentioned. “I had an unimaginable offensive line. We’re buddies outdoors of soccer and that has helped our connection on the sphere. Most of us have been taking part in collectively since center college.”
We are able to sum up freedom soccer in a number of phrases: “Play exhausting, play quick and play bodily.”
“These are the issues I need to be remembered for; I at all times performed exhausting,” mentioned Fletcher.
Nobody is aware of how the postseason would have turned out if Sasso hadn’t been injured in Week 10 in opposition to Easton to complete his season.
Nazareth, who beat Parkland 28-10 firstly of the season, misplaced 42-14 within the 6A quarter-final rematch, when all Sasso might do was watch with a flexor tendon tear on the tip of his ring finger on his throwing hand.
“It was very tough to be on the sidelines,” Sasso mentioned. “Once I first heard that I would not want surgical procedure and would not be capable to play, I used to be heartbroken and actually upset with myself. However ultimately I got here to the conclusion that I did just about every part I might to assist my staff. I sacrificed rather a lot for the soccer staff and I confirmed rather a lot.”
Sasso might select to not play in any respect, as he received a state wrestling championship final March and dedicated early to pursue his wrestling profession at Virginia Tech.
Anybody who cared about Blue Eagles soccer was joyful as he placed on his helmet and shoulder pads and introduced his tenacity and dedication alongside along with his bodily abilities to the pitch.
He not solely took half within the assault, however was additionally one of many leaders within the interventions from the safety place.
“He is a throwback and an old-fashioned soccer participant,” mentioned Nazareth coach Tom Falzone. He was a two-way man and was essential to us. It is undoubtedly among the best we have had right here. He is robust as nails and a fierce opponent, and a sensible and pure chief.”
The 1.8-metre, 175-pound Sasso threw for 1,877 yards and scored 15 targets in 2021 as an adolescent, however he did not have that a lot time to work on his soccer abilities as he was busy wrestling within the winter.
The most important factor he obtained from wrestling, which served him properly in soccer, was confidence.
“When you win a state championship in wrestling, that brings you the profitable mentality,” Falzone mentioned. “He had the flexibility to assemble the troopers and let everybody know what he was considering. The opposite gamers knew he was our quarterback and so they rallied round him and believed in him.”
“My confidence in my soccer abilities has by no means been larger and taking part in with confidence performs you higher.” mentioned.
Sasso was named EPC South MVP by the convention coaches. He was additionally a first-team decide in protection.
Sasso was capable of commute with no hitch.
“I can not get too excited taking part in quarterback,” he mentioned. “I’ve to be the calmest man on the market and it is a completely different feeling after I’m on the defensive. I’ve to be essentially the most aggressive man on the sphere.”
Whereas Falzone says Sasso has the expertise to play faculty soccer, Sasso has no regrets about specializing in wrestling. He hopes to return to the mat for the Blue Eagles within the subsequent few weeks after receiving medical approval.
“Wrestling is my real love,” he mentioned. “I liked my time on the soccer area, however now it is time to wrestle.”
In terms of his soccer profession, Sasso mentioned he needed to be remembered as “the person who risked every part”. I used to be a warrior able to do something to assist my teammates. That’s all.”
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