Berwick beats North Pocono 28-14
Written by: Mitch Rupert on Friday, November 4th, 2022. Follow Mitch Rupert on Twitter.
BERWICK — Berwick didn’t pick up a first down in Friday night’s District 2 Class AAAA quarterfinal against North Pocono until nearly 16 minutes of game time had elapsed. It didn’t much matter, though. The Bulldogs still had a two-score lead by that point.
Fourth-seeded Berwick capitalized on two early special teams mistakes by North Pocono to punch in touchdowns in goal-to-go situations, and the Bulldogs’ two best playmakers put the game to bed in the fourth quarter for a 28-14 win over the Trojans at Crispin Field. Berwick advances to face top-seeded Crestwood next week in the district semifinals after the undefeated Comets beat Nanticoke, 61-7.
For an offense which has struggled as much as Berwick has during its three-game losing streak getting the ball handed to it inside the North Pocono 5-yard line twice in the game’s first 90 seconds was a welcome sight. The Bulldogs had been shut out twice during its three-game losing streak to close out the regular season, but when North Pocono failed to field the opening kickoff and Berwick linebacker Braylon Hawkins jumped on it on the Trojans’ 2-yard line, the Bulldogs were able to waltz into the end zone on a Matt Lonczynski touchdown run to take a 7-0 lead.
And after a low snap rolled between the punter’s legs, Berwick started on the Trojans’ 3-yard line. The Bulldogs took a 13-0 lead with only 1:32 elapsed in the game when Lonczynski hit Rowan Slabinski with a touchdown pass.
“They’re costly mistakes,” North Pocono coach Greg Dolhan said. “It’s part of the game, but it’s hard to stop them when they’re inside the 5.”
“That was stunning,” Berwick coach Mike Bennett said. “We were trying to kick the ball away from (North Pocono’s Michael Blaine) and it ended up between their two returners and we were able to make a play. But that start was phenomenal. We needed to get off fast, and it’s great to see the kids come together to make that happen.”
After those two quick scores, both offenses fell into the traps they had late in the season which led to both teams’ records dipping below .500. Berwick struggled to run the ball and totaled just 74 yards at the half. North Pocono picked up yardage, but couldn’t finish drives, going a combined 2 for 11 on third and fourth downs in the first half.
Even when North Pocono finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter, it was only because Riley Moore made an exceptional run 53 yards after intercepting a pass to dive into the end zone. The Trojans’ only other score came after a Berwick fumble set up the Trojans with a short field. Noah West found Evan Wolff for a 17-yard touchdown pass which cut Berwick’s lead to 21-14 with 6:23 to go.
But Berwick always had that 14-point cushion it started the game with to fall back on. Even when Moore’s return cut their lead to 14-6, there was never any panic. And after Wolff’s touchdown, Berwick again responded to keep its two-score lead.
The Bulldogs kept their lead because it was finally able to lean on its two biggest playmakers to come up with back-breaking plays. First, it was Spencer Kishbaugh throwing a mean stiff arm after a 5-yard out pattern to turn it into a 37-yard touchdown. Then it was Drey Wilk utilizing tremendous blocking from his fellow receivers to turn a bubble screen into a 46-yard gain. Three plays later, Berwick’s Bo Sheptock scored from 1-yard out to give the Bulldogs its 28-14 lead.
“Those two were hurt all week after they got banged up at Hazleton,” Bennett said of Wilk and Kishbaugh. “But big players make big plays. And they both turned a little pass into a big play when we needed it.”
“They’re a handful athletically,” Dolhan said. “They made big plays when they had to. Unfortunately, we just didn’t make enough plays to match them.”
North Pocono moved the ball well for much of the game. Blaine ran for 91 yards and Noah West threw for 140 more. But the Trojans finished just 1 for 7 on fourth-down attempts and 2 for 14 on third down, including 0 for 7 in the second half.
“We have to convert on those,” Dolhan said. “Football is won by playmakers and we didn’t make enough plays. We got the football down in the red zone, but we didn’t put it in the end zone enough, and I call the plays, so that’s on me.”
Berwick 28, North Pocono 14
North Pocono 0 0 6 8 — 14
Berwick 14 0 0 14 — 28
B – Matt Lonczynski 7 run (Luke Peters kick), 10:56
B – Rowan Slabinski 7 pass from Lonczynski (Peters kick), 8:30
NP – Riley Moore 53 interception return (kick failed), 3:19
B – Spencer Kishbaugh 37 pass from Lonczynski (Peters kick), 9:49
NP – Evan Wolff 17 pass from Noah West (Ty Lafave pass from West), 6:23
B – Bo Sheptock 1 run (Peters kick), 4:29
First Downs 11 10
Rushes-Yards 30-86 32-152
Comp-Att-Int 15-34-1 10-15-2
Passing 140 121
Total Yards 226 273
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-22 8-87
Rushing: North Pocono — Michael Blaine, 17-91; Riley Moore, 1-27; Ty Lafave, 1-4; Noah West, 10-(-6); Team, 1-(-30). Berwick — Bo Sheptock, 19-74, TD; Matt Lonczynski, 7-47, TD; Ethan Lear, 1-18; Tyler Winter, 2-12; Spencer Kishbaugh, 1-3; Team, 2-(-2).
Passing: North Pocono — Noah West, 15-34-1, 140 yds., TD. Berwick — Matt Lonczynski, 10-15-2, 121 yds., 2 TDs.
Receiving: North Pocono — Michael Blaine, 5-44; Ty Lafave, 4-8; Zack Benzie, 2-38; Riley Moore, 2-29; Evan Wolff, 1-17, TD; Cole Thomas, 1-4. Berwick — Drey Wilk, 6-69; Spencer Kishbaugh, 2-40, TD; Rowan Slabinski, 1-7, TD; Ethan Lear, 1-5.
INTERCEPTIONS — Berwick, Spencer Kishbaugh; North Pocono, Riley Moore, Zach Hoover.
Records: Berwick (5-6); North Pocono (4-7).
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