BERLIN - The Berlin football team knew facing 6-1 Bloomfield was going to be a battle, and a battle it was.
It wasn’t until Larry St. Pierre intercepted a Daron Bryden pass and returned it for a touchdown the Redcoats were able to seal a 23-14 win Friday night and qualify for a spot in the Class M playoffs.
Berlin didn’t quality until the final game of the season last year.
“All week at practice, Larry St. Pierre kept telling us ‘I’m going to get a pick six, if they run that bubble I’m getting a pick six’ and we all smiled and said maybe,” Redcoats head coach Aresimowicz said. “But then he did. It's just having confidence in what they’re doing.”
But this was a game the Berlin wanted to win - call it redemption - after the Warhawks beat the Redcoats by 22 points last season.
Bloomfield came into the game with plenty of playmakers, particularly Ky’Juon Butler and Anthony Simpson. And with Butler as the Warhawks’ primary running back, he was expected to pose the Redcoats’ defense with their biggest challenge of the season.
The 5-foot-8, 202 pound back rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown the first half of the game, but Berlin’s defense did exactly what they were told to do. The sole instruction from Aresimowicz was to just “hang with it.”
Butler would only finish with 59 yards after halftime.
The Redcoats were well aware of Butler and the level of skill he plays at. Berlin’s own running back, Alex Halkias, had a history with Butler. When the two were younger, they both played on the same team.
“[Butler] is a really good player. I actually played with him in camp,” Halkias said. “He was our leading running back and he was just very good. We knew we had to slow him down.”
Berlin also had to slow down Bryden. Bloomfield’s freshman quarterback completed 11 of his 22 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown. Bryden connected with Simpson for a 41-yard touchdown pass in the first few seconds of the second quarter to push them ahead of the Redcoats 14-7.
“In the first half, Bloomfield was pounding us with the run,” Berlin running back Zach Hrubiec said. “But we went in and made adjustments and it worked for the second half.”
The Redcoats’ outscored the Warhawks 16-0 over the final 24 minutes of play as their offense established a rhythm with its run game, as well as utilizing its passing attacks to put the points up on the board.
Halkias, Hrubiec and James Mazzarella all averaged about 5.2 yards per carry. But, it was Halkias that led the way with 16 carries for 76 yards, including a 14-yard rushing touchdown.
Quarterback Kevin Dunn was efficient, completing 8 of his 13 passes for 139 yards with one touchdown pass. Dunn connected with Giancarlo Tufano for a 29-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14 with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But it was almost for not when Mazzarella fumbled on the goal line with 4:11 left to go in the fourth quarter. The senior, however, responded with a safety on the next play, giving the Redcoats a two-point advantage.
“Ball security was a big thing for us [Friday],” Halkias said. “They were ripping at the balls and they actually got one at the goal line which really hurt us. Going forward we just need to work on that.”
The safety was one of a number of big plays by Berlin’s defense, which also intercepted two passes, including the one by St. Pierre.
And now, while the Redcoats have their spot in the postseason, there is still work to be done. Berlin will see the No. 13 Rocky Hill (8-0) next Friday.
“You know they’re a very good team,” Hrubiec said. “They beat Bloomfield as well. We’re just going to go in with the same mentality, heart and hard at practice.”
“They’re a very good team, very well coached team, great athletes,” Aresimowicz said. “We’re going to have to bring our A game but we’re playing well now.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Berlin 23, Bloomfield 14
At Sage Park (Friday)
Berlin (8-0) 7 0 7 9 - 23
Bloomfield (6-2) 7 7 0 0 - 14
Bl-Ky’Juon Butler 1 run (Jordan Kirby kick), 4:42
B-Alex Halkias 14 run (Giancarlo Tufano kick), 1:56
Bl-Anthony Simpson 41 pass from Daron Bryden (Kirby kick), 11:47
B-Tufano 29 pass from Kevin Dunn (Tufano kick), 7:00
B-James Mazzarella safety, 4:11
B-Larry St. Pierre 15 intercepted return (Tufano kick), 1:26
Rushing-Berlin: Alex Halkias 16-76-T, James Mazzarella 5-15, Zach Hrubiec 2-18; Kevin Dunn 1-5, Larry St. Pierre 3-(-9). Bloomfield: Ky’Juon Butler 27-176-TD; Anthony Simpson 8-43.
Passing-Berlin: Kevin Dunn 8-13-139. Bloomfield: Daron Bryden 11-22-152.
Receiving-Berlin: Hrubiec 2-61, Giancarlo Tufano 2-41-1TD, Pierre 2-11, Mazzarella 1-15, Halkias 1-11. Bloomfield:Simpson 5-57-TD, Kamren Watkins-Hunter 3-21, Justice Mansfield-Beaulieu 2-5.