HEBRON - As the Berlin football team walked off the field Saturday afternoon towards its buses, another win in hand, there wasn’t a sense of excitement or joy, but a sense of relief mixed with a little frustration.
It had taken the Redcoats all four quarters to come away with a 21-14 victory over RHAM after quarterback Kevin Dunn hitting Zach Hrubiec for the 8-yard deciding score. For a team that prides itself on being fundamentally sound, the sloppy play that plagued Berlin throughout the afternoon showed that while unbeaten at 4-0, showed just how far it has to go if it wants to be considered a seriously playoff contender.
Good teams usually, don’t make the same mistakes.
Dropped passes, poor decision making, missed assignments and poor tackling highlighted some of the issues and allowed the Sachems to stick around longer than they should have. RHAM compiled a mere 188 yards of total offense and it wasn’t until almost midway through the fourth quarter, the Redcoats were able to take and hold onto the lead for good.
And as they walked off the field, both players and coaches knew another performance like that, against a better-quality opponent, would not yield the same results.
“We’ve definitely have to put an emphasis on discipline,” said tight end Giancarlo Tufano, who finished the game with four catches for 57 yards. “I think that’s a key word because we have Rocky Hill, Tolland, Avon, Bloomfield, New Britain. Those are five games that are going to be important to our season and we can’t go into those games and play the way we did [Saturday].”
Berlin had made it a point of emphasis to get back to the basics during its week of preparation, focusing on doing the little things right to be successful on the field. But what stuck out to head coach Joe Aresimowicz the most was his team did the opposite and continued to make the same mistakes in Week 4 as it had made back in the season opener.
“[Our players] got another victory, that’s awesome,” Aresimowicz said. “But we have to come out quicker. We have to limit the mistakes.”
A dropped pass in the end zone that could have put the game away or another one that slipped through the hands of another receiver and into the arms of a waiting defender can’t happen, especially late. Poor snaps and a lack of communication played a role as well in taking away from some of the positives that were on display such as the run game as well as the Redcoats’ ability to make plays when they needed to.
Overall, Berlin rushed for 170 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. James Mazzarella made the catch of the afternoon, bringing in a difficult over-the-shoulder catch at the end of the first half and the offense showed an ability to convert on third down, going 5-of-9.
Dunn has also continued his growth as a first-year quarterback - he completed 13 of his 21 passes for 241 yards - and is surrounded by a number of playmakers, while the offensive line has shown it can be dominant and physical.
But perhaps worse than the correctable mistakes were the times when the frustrations finally boiled over for Berlin and it allowed them to show. Not in penalties, but with one another.
“One thing that we have to better is be a family and not fight players,” offensive and defensive lineman Greg Carson said. “We’re fighting each other and you can’t win ballgames like that. It’s not going to happen.”
With six games remaining on the schedule, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. Saturday’s win showed as much. But Berlin believes the potential is there. It just has to take advantage of it.
“I feel we can be great,” Tufano said. “We’re shooting for a ring, as always. But I honestly think if we’re disciplined, if we put in the hard work, we’ll go 15-0 the rest of the way.”
Until then, it is back to basics.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach