Blocked field goal, 19-point fourth quarter propel Berwick to District 2 championship game
BERWICK, Pa. – There were points in time Saturday afternoon where it seemed Berwick’s offensive front just couldn’t stop Dallas from getting pressure in the backfield.
“We just couldn’t block (Dallas linebacker Jason) Simonovich,” said Bulldogs’ head coach George Curry. “That kid is an animal.”
It turns out Berwick got a block of a different sort to steal the momentum back to its side.
Will Marsteller blocked Dallas’ go-ahead 41-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter and Berwick (10-1) used a 19-point fourth quarter to advance to next weekend’s District 2 AAA championship game with a 28-7 victory over Dallas (7-4) Saturday afternoon from Crispin Field in Berwick.
Saturday’s victory means Berwick will face Abington Heights, a 13-6 winner over Valley View, at a time to be determined. Rumors were that the game would be at 1 p.m. Saturday, but Curry wouldn’t confirm that postgame. In its most recent District 2 championship victory (2008), Berwick defeated Abington Heights, 3-0.
And wouldn’t you know it, a field goal became the turning point of Saturday afternoon’s semifinal game.
Dallas began the second half much t the same way it ended the first half – on fire. The Mountaineers had closed to within 9-7, forced a Bulldog three-and-out, and drove from their own 29 to the Berwick 24 thanks to the mobility and playmaking ability of dual-threat quarterback Ryan Zapoticky.
Placekicker Ryan Kozloski lined up for a 41-yard field goal attempt with 6:56 left in the third quarter, which would have given Dallas a 10-9 lead. But Marsteller, a senior, saw to it the Mountaineers wouldn’t enjoy a lead. Not at all.
“We weren’t going to lose (this game),” Marsteller said. “We decided that at halftime (that we weren’t losing). That block definitely changed the momentum. Everyone was up. Everyone was together.”
But the change in momentum wasn’t instantaneous. Berwick muddled through the remainder of the third quarter scoreless and the hosts faced a 4th-and-24 situation to start the fourth quarter.
Enter Jeff Steeber, another senior. He came up with a critical 31-yard reception from C.J. Curry to the Mounts’ 5-yard line. Matt Cashman scored on the next play to make it 15-7.
“It (the play) was by design to come to me, but there toward the end the play began to break down so I started drifting back toward C.J.,” Steeber said.
“That was a guardian angel,” Curry said. “It was a heck of a catch by Steeber, too. Give that kid credit for that play.”
Steeber wasn’t done making plays, though. He finished with 53 yards rushing on five carries and caught three passes for 40 yards, and he drove a few nails in Dallas’ coffin with a 33-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to propel Berwick to a 21-7 advantage.
Zach Ladonis capped the 19-point fourth period with a 12-yard interception return of Zapoticky with less than a minute left in the game.
Dallas had surpassed the 100-yard mark in team rushing in the third quarter, but after that juncture, the Mounts registered minus-44 yards rushing on its last 10 carries, including sacks.
“We had the momentum on defense,” Marsteller said. “That’s definitely a strong side of the ball for us.”
After Berwick jumped to a 9-0 lead, Dallas clawed its way back to within 9-7 at halftime thanks to Zapoticky’s mobility. On Dallas’ touchdown drive, capped by a 4-yard pass from Zapoticky to Kris Roccograndi, No. 5 recorded four first downs via rushing attempts. But Berwick clamped down in the second half and Dallas’ slippery senior quarterback finished with 33 yards rushing and 72 yards passing.
“He’s a heck of a back,” Curry said of Zapoticky. “That’s a good football team we beat. Watch the film (from the first game) and you’d wonder how the heck we scored 50 on them because we couldn’t block. But we hit big plays.”
Dallas’ defense, too, deserved credit for limiting Berwick to just 27 yards rushing through the first 25:41 of the game. But the Bulldogs found its footing in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter, and rushed for 105 yards over the duration of the game.
“We challenged some kids and told ’em to take them off the ball,” Curry said. “Take ’em off the stinkin’ ball. We challenged them and we got some blocks.”
Consider it a case of one block leading to the others.
NOTES: Andrew Force caught one pass for seven yards Saturday, but it was notable because it was his first non-touchdown reception of the season. Each of Force’s six receptions of the 2012 season had gone for touchdowns. C.J. Curry began the game 5-of-5 passing for 102 yards, but finished 2-of-8 for 36…….Dallas was hit with a pair of personal foul penalties in the fourth quarter after forcing a Berwick turnover on downs, and one of the Mountaineer players was ejected as a result. Dallas finished with eight penalties for 66 yards to Berwick’s seven for 51……Ladonis’ interception return for a touchdown came on Dallas’ first play from scrimmage following the pair of personal fouls.
Dallas 0 7 0 0 – 7
Berwick 3 6 0 19 – 28
BER – FG, Olivia Seely 25
BER – Jake Peccorelli 38 pass from C.J. Curry (kick failed)
DAL – Kris Roccograndi 4 pass from Ryan Zapoticky (Ryan Kozloski kick)
BER – Matt Cashman 5 run (kick failed)
BER – Jeff Steeber 33 run (pass failed)
BER – Zach Ladonis 12 interception return (Seely kick)
Rushes-yds 40-132 32-59
Passing 7-13-0 6-14-1
Passing yds 138 72
Total offense 270 131
1st downs 15 10
Penalties 7-51 8-66
Turnovers 0 2
RUSHING: DAL: Ryan Zapoticky 21-33; Kris Roccograndi 9-22; Bill Gately 2-4. BER: Matt Cashman 15-58 TD; C.J. Curry 17-7; Jeff Steeber 5-53 TD; Jordan Stout 2-8; Jake Peccorelli 1-6.
PASSING: DAL: Zapoticky 6-14-1-72 TD. BER: Curry 7-13-0-138 TD.
RECEIVING: DAL: Jason Simonovich 1-33; Darik Johnson 2-22; Kyle Zumchak 2-13; Roccograndi 1-4 TD. BER: Peccorelli 2-85 TD; Steeber 3-40; Zach Ladonis 1-6; Andrew Force 1-7.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
Share This Post: