PLAINVILLE - It took six days and an entire week of practice, but the Berlin football team finally found a performance it felt good about.
And that, perhaps, was the most important part.
As the Redcoats walked off the field, Friday night’s 42-14 win over Plainville was what they had expected the week before and struggled to get in a late victory over RHAM. Berlin started fast, eliminated many of the mistakes that had hurt it last Saturday and all but put the game away by halftime.
There was no disappointment, frustration or disgust that had been so evident last week this time around. There wasn’t a need.
The Blue Devils managed to score just one touchdown against the varsity defense, while the Redcoats’ offense/special teams were able to score on four of the first five times it touched the ball.
“I’m thrilled [about Friday],” Berlin head coach Joe Aresimowicz said. “I asked [the players] in the pregame huddle, ‘just play Berlin football, play to your abilities,’ and they did. A couple of tiny mistakes [Friday], but we had a lot of young guys out there and they did a phenomenal job.”
Larry St. Pierre set the tone for the night, returning a punt on Berlin’s first touch of the game 95 yards for a touchdown and everything else quickly fell into place.
The game was 28-7 at the end of the second quarter.
Alex Halkias carried the ball just nine times, but for 104 yards and three touchdowns. Zach Hrubiec added two more scores, one through the air and one on the ground, while quarterback Kevin Dunn continued to be efficient, making smart passes and pulling the ball down and running when the defense dictated.
On the other side, Plainville was limited to just 220 yards of total offense, with safety Matt Wojciechowski coming away with an interception and the defense tallying two sacks and a forced fumble.
And in the end, although not perfect, the Berlin showed what was possible if it finally played like it was capable of and as a result headed into its bye week sitting at 5-0.
So, what was the difference in the last two weeks?
Some it had to do with the Redcoats executing their calls and plays correctly. A lot of it had to do with Berlin not playing down to its level of competition for once this season.
The Redcoats’ first five opponents have a combined record of 6-19. Wins against Bulkeley/HMTCA/Weaver, East Catholic, Northwest Catholic, RHAM and Plainville are nice, but nothing to brag about, either.
“Last week we had some difficulties with our reads on defense and things like that,” Wojciechowski said. “We weren’t sure what we were doing in certain spots, but we took that team lightly as well and we recognized that when we came out 21-14. This week we made sure that wouldn’t happen.”
It also can’t happen after the bye week when Berlin’s schedule gets increasingly harder.
Avon, Tolland, Bloomfield, Rocky Hill and New Britain all lie ahead and will surely take advantage of opportunities the first five opponents failed to do. Clinching a postseason spot prior to the final game of the season would certainly be helpful.
But, if anything, the first five weeks of the season allowed the Redcoats to smooth out any kinks or issues that persisted until Friday night, acting almost like an extended preseason.
After last week, Aresimowicz’s biggest issue was that his team was making the same mistakes it had been in the season opener.
That message appeared to have been received loud and clear.
The only glaring mistake outside of four penalties was a Dunn interception in the end zone at the end of the first half.
Berlin now appears to be clicking on all cylinders.
“A little bit, yes and no,” St. Pierre said about the early season schedule helping prepare the team for its tough second half. “It’s like they eased us into the season and they bring all the competition in the end. But we’re ready for whatever comes at us.”
The final five games will certainly tell one way or another.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach