Selinsgrove @ Berwick GameDay Preview
Written by: Jeremy Varner on Thursday, October 1st, 2009.
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Seals Look for Special Effort at Always-Tough Berwick
By Jack Burns, ESPN AM-1240 Play-by-Play Announcer
After manhandling four overmatched opponents by a collective 202-12, Selinsgrove (4-0) is looking for a step up in class Friday night when the Seals travel to Crispin Field to take on perennial District 2 Class AAA power Berwick (3-1).
The two teams are far from strangers with Selinsgrove having beaten the Bulldogs twice a year ago, 28-3 in the regular season, and 14-6 in a dramatic PIAA Class AAA Quarterfinal Game at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Field. With the Seals returning 15 starters from their squad of a year ago, Berwick coach Gary Campbell, Jr. realizes turning the tables on Selinsgrove will be difficult.
“They have the experience,” said Campbell (4th.-year at Berwick, 27-13, 14th.-year overall, which included 10 years at Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton, Massachusetts, 110-36-1). “They have certainly the goal. I think they stopped short last year. I think they just have that goal in their head that they’re going to be something special. So far, they have been.”
The Seals surely have not been flying under the radar this season, being recognized by all media outlets as one of the top teams in the region and in the state, including a number two ranking in the state in Class AAA by the Harrisburg Patriot-News, all season long. However, now Selinsgrove has to back up all of their accolades on the field when they take on a Bulldog squad that also was ranked in the top ten in the state in Class AAA before bowing to Wyoming Valley West, 14-7, last week.
“All the naysayers have been saying that we haven’t played anybody and this and that,” said Seal coach Dave Hess, the 2008 Associated Press Class AAA Coach-of-the-Year. “This is the one that is going to validate whether or not we’re a good football team.”
The luster of an anticipated battle of unbeatens was tarnished with Berwick’s loss last Friday and Hess attributes the setback to the Dawgs possibly having their sights set on Week 5.
“I honestly think that Berwick last week got caught looking ahead to Selinsgrove,” explained Hess, whose squad went 13-2 last season and reached the state semifinals for the first time in school history. “They weren’t too much concerned about Wyoming Valley West and given the fact that they lost to Wyoming Valley West, those guys are going to come out like they’ve been trapped in cages. They’re going to come out and they are really going to come after us. We’re going to get their A-plus game this week. I think that’s going to be a great thing for our kids. I think that’s going to be a great thing for anybody that goes there to watch the football game. They’re going to see a whale of a football game.”
While Campbell dispels that his team was looking past a Wyoming Valley West unit that entered last Friday’s contest with a 1-2 record, he does acknowledge that the Bulldogs’ annual meeting with the Seals is right up there on the Berwick calendar with conference foes, Wyoming Valley West and Hazleton.
“There is no doubt in this present time, our kids know the quality of teams that Selinsgrove’s had and they know that they have to consider them as that type of rival,” commented Campbell, who had guided Wahconah Regional to a pair of state championships. “It’s building. We re-upped for next year and years further because we think it’s a great match. They’re two quality programs.”
The Bulldogs, which have six state titles to their credit in 1988, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997, lead the overall series against Selinsgrove, 14-8. However, the Seals have won 3 of the last 4 games against Berwick and have held the Dawgs offense in those 4 games to a total of 28 points. Campbell has often been asked why the Selinsgrove 3-5 defense has been so tough against Berwick in recent years and he quickly explains it’s not the formation that is the problem, but the personnel in the formation.
“People are making a big deal out of the 3-5,” said Campbell. “I saw Mifflinburg run the 3-5 in the film. I saw Milton run the 3-5 and I saw somebody else (Danville). For some reason, they don’t run it as well as Selinsgrove and that’s because of (Bryant) Trautman, (Seth) Lauver, and all of those boys that they got over there.”
Selinsgrove Offense vs. Berwick Defense
Selinsgrove’s ground game by committee continued to churn out big numbers in the Seals’ 62-6 rout of Danville last week. Selinsgrove amassed 294 yards on 33 carries led by junior tailback Kyle Reinard, who rushed the ball 11 times for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also opened the game with an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. For the season, Reinard, a 2008 2nd.-Team Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I All-Star has 281 yards and 4 touchdowns on 34 rushing attempts to top the Seals.
Reinard led Selinsgrove last season with 1,112 rushing yards, including games of 106 yards (regular season meeting) and 75 yards (state playoff game) against the Bulldogs.
“What I like about Reinard in watching him, he’s strong,” praised Campbell. “You say, ‘he’s not a very big back’, but he’s a strong physical back. You better wrap him and then obviously you have Trautman and Lauver and (Matt) Wenrich in front of him that’s something else.”
Wenrich, the starting fullback, is second in rushing with an eye-popping 193 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 11 carries (17.5 yards/rushing attempt). Cameron Benner is next in line, 16 rushes for 151 yards and 4 touchdowns, followed by Lauver (10-114-2) and Trautman (7-50-3). The wealth of running backs is a luxury for Hess to deal with when figuring out who is in the game at a certain time.
“Number one is we’ll try to keep guys fresh because most of those guys are defensive starters and different guys have different strengths,” explained Hess. “Seth Lauver is a great fullback, a tough inside runner. He’s a more patient runner. He finds the seams, so he’s more of a zone guy. If you’re running inside-outside zone, he’s more of a running back in that respect, where Matt Wenrich is a hard-hitting guy that just reads nothing. He just hits it hard. He’s more of a blast guy. Bryant Trautman is very good in short yardage situations. He finds the seams in short yardage and he’s the guy we stick in, in our red formation when we’re going goal line. The backs, there are times we want to do certain things with Kyle and there are times we want to do certain things with Benner, but on the other hand, they’re both doggone good backs and they’re just keeping each other fresh basically.”
There is no rotating at quarterback where Cory Briggs has been the man for the last two years. Briggs, a 2nd.-Team HAC-Division I All-Star last season, is 30 of 60 through the air for 401 yards and 6 touchdowns with nary an interception. A season ago, Briggs broke the school’s single season record for touchdown passes with 30 in throwing for 2,248 yards.
The favorite target for Briggs is normally wide receiver Ryan Keiser. Keiser, a 1st.-Team HAC-Division I All-Star last year when he broke the single season records for receptions (75), receiving yards (1,281) and touchdown receptions (19), has been limited, because of the one-sided games, to just 6 catches this season for 154 yards and a pair of scores. The Seals’ top receiver in 2009 has been tight end Kyle Schuck with 8 receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown. Matt Ruby, the starting flanker, has grabbed another 5 passes for 42 yards and a six-pointer.
For the first time all season, the Selinsgrove offensive line will remain in tact from the previous week, anchored by center Jon Trego, a 2008 1st.-Team HAC-Division I All-Star.
The Berwick 4-3 defense needed to rebuild from a year ago as the Dawgs graduated their entire linebacking corps, but you wouldn’t know it by the results thus far. Berwick has yielded just 171.5 yards/game (118 rushing yards and 53.5 passing yards) and 10.3 points a game.
Gone from last season are Ryan Cordingly, Ryan Sitler, and Eddie Hoffman. Cordingly, a 2008 1st.-Team A.P. Class AAA All-State selection at linebacker, led the Bulldogs with 105 tackles and 13 sacks a year ago and currently leads King’s College, as a freshman, in tackles. Sitler, a 2008 2nd.-Team A.P. Class AAA All-State LB, was second on the squad with 78 tackles and is now at Colgate University.
“I thought our defense in the first four games is playing very, very well, considering losing 8 starters and especially those 3 linebackers that were so good,” said Campbell. “We switched some guys and it’s just our philosophy here. We took a good offensive lineman, a guard, and made him a linebacker, Tyson Kelly has worked out very well.(Brett) Bodwalk is a good middle linebacker and then our other one, (Caleb) Fetterolf was a sophomore last year, who we thought was very good, but just had a tough crew to break in against. So, he stabilized our linebacking crew.”
Bodwalk is the top returning tackler from last season, ranking fourth a year ago for Berwick with 43 stops, while defensive ends Roy Dennis (6 sacks in 2008) and Casey Davenport (5 sacks in 2008) compiled the most quarterbacks sacks last season of the returning players. Davenport is a game-time decision for this week.
“Last year, their real talent was at linebacker and they still have good linebackers,” analyzed Hess. “Boy, I’ll tell you, they’re good, but I think their real strength now is their down men, the shift went from the skilled guys to pretty much the big guys. They’re real strong up front, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
Berwick Offense vs. Selinsgrove Defense
The Bulldogs were supposed to have a returning starter at quarterback like Selinsgrove; however, this past summer A.J. Mihaly, who threw for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2008, tore his ACL in a legion baseball game and is lost for the year.
“It set us back, especially in the leadership role,” admitted Campbell. “The kids voted him captain in the spring, so really it was one of those things as a two-year starter what he brings to you in talent and experience, but also the big thing we’re missing is that leadership. He was the leader of that offense. He was a vocal leader. The kids respected him. He’s a state champion in baseball, a good, overall athlete with a good head on his shoulders, so we miss him quite a bit.”
Taking over the signal-caller’s role is sophomore Jared Pierce. He has completed 24 of 50 aerials for 285 yards and 4 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. Pierce’s top receivers have been Sean Ridall, 7 receptions for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Eric Schleich, 7 receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown.
What fuels the Berwick offense is their ground game, led by returning starters Lou Hampton, at tailback, and Alec Ladonis, at fullback. Hampton is averaging over eight yards a carry this season, picking up 508 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns on 63 attempts and Ladonis has accumulated 339 yards and 4 touchdowns on 56 rushes.
Helping the Bulldogs to average 352.5 yards a game (273.8 rushing yards and 78.7 passing yards) in total offense and 29.3 points a game is an offensive line that averages 265 pounds a player. Nate Hess, the lone returning starter in the Berwick interior and no relation to the Seal coach, weighs in at 280 pounds as does David Kitchen andFrank Peters.
“They run the ball well and their offensive line is gigantic,” said Dave Hess. “If our guys try to play up high with these guys, we’ll get killed. What jumps out is their physical size and mass and their strength when they get on people who try to play up with them. We’ve got to be lower. We’ve got to be quicker. We’ve got to be more athletic. We’ve got to defeat all of that size with technique.”
The Selinsgrove defense continues to stymie opposing offenses at an unbelievable clip this season. The Seals have allowed but two fourth quarter touchdowns against their reserve unit and have limited teams to an average of 80 total yards of offense a game (35 rushing yards and 45 passing yards).
A couple of three-year starters buoy the line in Trego and Spencer Myers, a 2008 2nd.-Team A.P. Class AAA All-State DL, who’s heading to the University of Maryland to continue his wrestling career. Making his first start on the D-line last week was Brett Musser, a converted outside linebacker.
“Our philosophy is to get the best 11 athletes on the field defensively,” explained Hess. “With our 3-5, what we want to do is just keep things so simple, so we can shift a guy in position and put him somewhere where we can get our best 11 on the field every week. Brett is one of those guys whose heart is as big as a stadium. He pays the price. He works hard. He lives Selinsgrove football and he was at a spot where there were just other guys who were going to play. So, we put him down at defensive tackle to give him a chance to get on the field. He pretty much asserted himself there last week.”
Trautman, a 2nd.-Team HAC-Division I All-Star LB, paces the Seal defense with 27 tackles, followed by Lauver with 19 tackles and Wenrich with 16 stops. A fourth linebacker, Dylan Elliot, made his presence felt last week by picking off a Danville pass and returning it 30 yards for a touchdown.
Keiser, a 2008 1st.-Team A.P. Class AAA All-State DB, returns at safety this year after intercepting a team-high 9 passes last season.
“I think defensively, they have the best team speed that I’ve seen on film,” praised Campbell. “Their linebackers, when you’re talking Trautman, Lauver, and Wenrich, they move so, so well and they run so well. They’re phenomenal. Spencer Myers on the ground is excellent and the nose guard is excellent. Then back there you always have to deal with Keiser. I think he’s one of the best athletes around, so defensively, they’re phenomenal.”
With Kyle Bennar out last Friday due to injury, Spencer Hotaling was called upon to handle all of the Selinsgrove kicking duties and he handled them well on a very busy night. Hotaling was 8 for 8 on PAT attempts to up his season total to 20 of 23 (87%) on conversions on the young season. On his first 10 kickoffs of the season, Hotaling averaged 51.8 yards a boot with a long of 56 yards. Reinard, with two punts last week, now has punted three times on the season with a 35.7-yard average.
Sophomore Alex Oliver is responsible for all of the Bulldog kicks and Ridall, the wide receiver, doubles up as the Berwick punter.
TE-18 Kyle Schuck (6-1, 220, Sr.)
LT-77 Spencer Myers (6-4, 230, Sr.)
LG-73 Logan Hetherington (6-0, 240, Jr.)
C-55 Jon Trego (6-1, 240, Sr.)
RG-59 Anthony Hauck (5-11, 200, Sr.)
RT-71 Brett Amerman (5-10, 230, Jr.)
SE-5 Ryan Keiser (6-2, 195, Sr.)
FL-10 Matt Ruby (5-10, 180, Sr.)
QB-8 Cory Briggs (6-2, 210, Sr.)
FB-33 Matt Wenrich (6-0, 225, Sr.)
TB-28 Kyle Reinard (5-9, 177, Jr.)
DE-93 Austin DiValerio (6-4, 215, Sr.) or 7 Casey Davenport (6-2, 235, Jr.)
DT-75 Dominic Morell (5-11, 225, Sr.)
DT-40 Pete Ervin (5-10, 190, Sr.)
DE-56 Roy Dennis (6-2, 220, Jr.)
OLB-39 Caleb Fetterolf (6-0, 205, Jr.)
MLB-44 Brett Bodwalk (6-0, 205, Sr.)
OLB-62 Tyson Kelly (6-0, 225, Sr.)
CB-28 Jason Shaffer (5-8, 150, Sr.)
FS-4 Mike Melchiorre (6-0, 170, Jr.)
SS-5 David Sanchez (5-11, 180, Jr.)
CB-21 Brandon Cope (5-8, 160, Sr.)
TE-93 Austin DiValerio (6-4, 215, Sr.) or 7 Casey Davenport (6-2, 235, Jr.)
LT-71 Christian Whitebread (6-4, 260, Jr.)
LG-73 Nate Hess (6-0, 280, Sr.)
C-55 Jake Jola (5-8, 225, Soph.)
RG-78 David Kitchen (6-0, 280, Sr.)
RT-72 Frank Peters (6-2, 280, Sr.)
WR-1 Sean Ridall (6-0, 170, Jr.)
WR-11 Eric Schleich (6-4, 185, Jr.)
QB-2 Jared Pierce (6-0, 180, Soph.)
FB-80 Alec Ladonis (6-0, 215, Sr.)
TB-23 Lou Hampton (6-1, 195, Sr.)
DT-84 Brett Musser (6-1, 210, Sr.)
NG-55 Jon Trego (6-1, 240, Sr.)
DT-77 Spencer Myers (6-4, 230, Sr.)
OLB-33 Matt Wenrich (6-0, 225, Sr.)
ILB-27 Dakota Wolf (5-10, 210, Jr.)
MLB-45 Seth Lauver (6-2, 245, Jr.)
ILB-9 Bryant Trautman (6-0, 214, Sr.)
OLB-23 Dylan Elliot (6-0, 170, Sr.)
CB-22 Cameron Benner (5-10, 180, Sr.)
S-5 Ryan Keiser (6-2, 195, Sr.)
CB-81 Dan Bausinger (5-9, 155, Jr.)
PAT/FG’s and Kickoffs-6 Spencer Hotaling (6-2, 150, Jr.)
P-28 Kyle Reinard (5-9, 177, Jr.)
PAT/FG’s and Kickoffs-81 Alex Oliver (5-8, 165, Soph.)
P-1 Sean Ridall (6-0, 170, Jr.)
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