HEBRON - Berlin head football coach Joe Aresimowicz knew the Redcoats would be facing a much different RHAM team than the one they had easily routed the year before.
He wasn’t wrong.
It wasn’t until quarterback Kevin Dunn completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to running back Zach Hrubiec with 7:10 remaining in the fourth quarter that Berlin went ahead for good in its 21-14 victory Saturday afternoon.
“Their kids played hard and you have to play mistake-free football,” Aresimowicz said. “We didn’t, and sooner or later, that’s going to cost us.
“I said to them ‘I have to congratulate you, you won. Winning’s good, but you can only make these mistakes so many times before they come back to haunt you.’ This is now Week 4 and they’re making the same mistakes they were making in Week 1.”
There were dropped passes, missed assignments and miscommunications. The Redcoats saw Alex Halkais miss a potential game-sealing touchdown toward the end of the third quarter and another pass on the same drive go through the hands of James Mazzarella and into the arms of a waiting Sachems defender, which led to the tying score.
But despite the miscues and mistakes, the Redcoats made just enough plays when they needed to, which ultimately proved to be the difference, and converted on five of their nine third-down chances.
Dunn had a hand in all three of Berlin’s touchdowns - two passing and one rushing - completing 13 of his 20 passes for 241 yards.
He also got plenty of help from his running backs. Halkias carried the ball 14 times for 108 yards, while Larry St. Pierre finished the afternoon with 94 total yards (48 rushing, 46 receiving), including a one-handed 21-yard catch and run that led to the game’s first touchdown.
“The offense was on the same page,” said tight end Giancarlo Tufano, who caught three of his four passes on either third or fourth down. “Kevin and I, we knew where we had to be, where we had to go. Larry [and] Alex ran hard. James, [Andrew Brochu] had that good catch on the sideline in the first quarter. Everyone had their own component that allowed us to win today.”
Mazzarella caught three passes to lead the team with 92 yards, with Tufano finishing with 57 yards.
The Redcoats scored most of their points in the first half.
After St. Pierre’s touchdown less than eight minutes in, Dunn kept the ball on a quarterback read and scampered across the goal line from three yards out with 9:53 left in the second quarter.
The signal caller capped off the second scoring drive with a two-point conversion pass to Hrubiec to bring the score to 14-0.
The Sachems, however, kept hanging around. RHAM answered right back with a 51-yard, 10-play drive that ending with its quarterback, Callum Redman, running in for the 1-yard score with 5:10 left in the half.
Redman proved to be the Sachems’ top offensive threat, rushing for 88 yards on 20 carries, with Berlin often needing a second or third try to bring him to the ground. Out of RHAM’s 151 yards of total offense, Redman accounted for 108.
“I have to say, No. 22 is a dude and a grown man,” Redcoats offensive and defensive lineman Greg Carson said. “He’s a great player. I think we played good defense. We just had some special teams problems and that kind of hurt the defense, giving them good field position.”
Neither team was able to do much at the start of third quarter, as the two traded punts before Michael Landrey intercepted Dunn’s pass meant for Mazzarella, which sparked another Sachem score.
Led by Redman, RHAM marched down the field 75 yards in 2:16 and knotted the score at 14-14, with Landrey ending the drive on a 5-yard speed sweep for the touchdown.
But as the Sachems had done to them in the first half, the Redcoats answered with the game-winning drive that went 76 yards. And after forcing a three-and-out on its next defensive possession, Berlin was able to run the clock out and remain unbeaten.
“It’s a good start. We’re 4-0, but we’re not playing too well,” Carson said. “We have to stick together and be a family.
“It was 14-7 at the half and I thought we were a way better team than them and they’re hanging around, which we can’t allow to happen against a team like Rocky Hill, New Britain, teams like that.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach