Burrell’s Kastelic eager to trade hat for helmet
Bits of fabric hang down from the brim of Luke Kastelic’s tan Chevy Trucks hat, a gift from his father from a truck stop in parts unknown and a fixture on Kastelic’s head since he received it a few years ago.
“When he doesn’t have a helmet on, he has that hat,” cracked Burrell coach Shawn Liotta.
Indeed, Kastelic played in the Westmoreland County Coaches Association basketball shootout with the hat, and it was atop his head again at Burrell’s football photo day in late July.
The hat has seen its share of wear and tear, but that hasn’t stopped Kastelic from wearing it.
“I always was looking for a hat because everyone sees everyone who has a hat,” Kastelic said. “I (said) I want a hat. He brought it home, and I (said), that’s mine.”
If a hat can serve as a model for a player, Kastelic’s would seem to fit him snugly, as a player who doesn’t shy away from contact either at running back or linebacker, where he’ll play this season for Burrell.
And Kastelic will take on an even greater role with 1,200-yard rusher Logan Bitar sidelined indefinitely after offseason knee surgery.
“I definitely think I’m probably going to have to step up more,” said Kastelic, who rushed for 220 yards and three touchdowns, averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and finished second on the team with 59 tackles last season. “I knew I was going to be a little bit involved with (Bitar), but now with him gone, I definitely think I have to step up my game as a running back.”
Liotta, Burrell’s first-year coach, likes an up-tempo passing attack, and Kastelic said he thinks he can contribute there as well. But he also can complement the air game with his hard-nosed rushing style.
“I thought he ran the ball hard,” Liotta said of Kastelic’s junior season. “Every time he got the ball, he did some positive things with it, whether it was in the backfield, they ran him a lot on counters and things like that. I see him more as a running back (and) slot type player for us.
″... Certainly we saw him do things with the ball. When he had the football, he was getting positive yards. He was tough to get on the ground. He gets a lot of yards after contact. He’s probably one of the hardest runners we have.”
That physical style suits Kastelic plenty on defense, which actually is his preferred side of the ball. Liotta’s defensive scheme calls for five linebackers, and with Kastelic, R.J. Beach, Andrew Bigler, Austin Mele and Mike Scherer, that’s the Bucs’ team strengths.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Kastelic isn’t Burrell’s biggest linebacker, but he’s not afraid to get his nose in the action.
“Right now, I’m just really excited because I think our defense is going to run around, do a lot of hitting and just be a really good defense,” Kastelic said, smacking a fist into his palm to simulate the hitting. “I’m really a defensive guy, and what we’re putting in, it’s just my kind of defense.
“I’m more of a run-stopper kind of guy, tackling people, but I can guard people down the field. I can keep up with them. ... When we need a tackle, I’m there. I think me being in there, everybody feeds off my energy, and we just go.”
Burrell is looking for more energy and more positive results after finishing 1-9 last season. The Bucs began the season with a Week Zero win over Springdale, only to drop their remaining nine games.
Liotta is emphasizing a future-first outlook as the Bucs attempt to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2012, predating even Kastellic’s hat.
“New attitude, fresh set of eyes on things,” Kastelic said. “I just try to go out there and do the best I can for the team, not for myself but for my team. I can hopefully take my performance to the next level and just do the best that I can do out there when I’m out there.