ROCKY HILL - There was not much for the Berlin football team to say as it walked off the field Friday night at Rocky Hill.
The Redcoats knew they had let a game they had every chance to be in slip away.
But perhaps the worst part of their 26-10 loss to the 13th-ranked Terriers was it was by their own doing. And those mistakes in the end cost Berlin (8-1) a chance at a perfect season and extended its losing streak against Rocky Hill (9-0) to three straight.
“We gave them a lot of help [Friday],” Berlin head coach Joe Aresimowicz said. “Twelve guys on the field gave them a first down. We have that ball, we have a chance. They come out in the wildcat, we hit them in the backfield and then don’t wrap our arms. The little things in this game matters. All 11 kids, on both sides of the ball, have to do their jobs and if anybody does their own thing, it ends badly for all.”
Aresimowicz isn’t wrong. His players admitted as much afterwards.
It started on the Redcoats’ first drive of the night, when an illegal shift on fourth-and-1 from the Rocky Hill 15-yard line forced them to settle for a Giancarlo Tufano 37-yard field goal. A bad snap that rolled on the ground past Tufano on a punt on the next drive led to a safety to put Berlin down 9-3.
It was catch up the rest of the way.
And when the Redcoats were down 19-10 with a chance to get the ball back with 5½ minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, they were called for that too many men on the field penalty on fourth-and-10, giving the Terriers a first down. Rocky Hill would score the final touchdown six plays later on a Daniel Cavallaro 10-yard run.
Just like that, the game was over.
Dropped passes, poor decision making, missed assignments and poor tackling highlighted some of the other issues the Redcoats have been able to avoid throughout most of the season.
Perhaps it was their previous competition that had allowed them to mask some of their flaws. The combined record of Berlin’s opponents this season is a mere 36-52. Perhaps Berlin just had an off week.
Either way, it was after a Week 4 win at RHAM that the Redcoats knew a sloppy performance later in the season against a good team would not yield the desired results and Rocky Hill proved them right.
Now, with the Wishbone Bowl against New Britain and the postseason still to go, the Redcoats can ill afford to have those same issues that plagued them Friday night as the games become even more important.
“It all comes down to practice,” Berlin running back/linebacker James Mazzarella said. “Practice, practice, practice. I don’t think we pursued as well as we should have during practice and we didn’t prepare ourselves as well, I don’t think. That affected our game play. But we also shot ourselves in the foot. We messed up. We had a safety, they got the ball back on a kickoff. We have to make sure we do things at 100 percent all the time.”
But as much as the mistakes cost the Redcoats, the struggles of their offensive and defensive units certainly didn’t help, either. Berlin couldn’t stop the Terriers’ run game and couldn’t generate any offense themselves.
Rocky Hill outgained the Redcoats 267 yards of total offense - all rushing - to 125 and as a result, Berlin was held well below its season average of 32.5 points per game.
Joe Catania rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown for the Terriers, while Joe Ferreira tallied another 83.
The Redcoats’ leading rusher was Alex Halkias, who collected 45 yards on 11 carries, while quarterback Kevin Dunn completed just five of his 15 passes for 39 yards. Berlin was just 2-of-8 on third downs. Rocky Hill was 8-for-15.
“We need to be able to throw the ball,” Aresimowicz said. “We need to be a 50-50 [run to pass] team. Dunn didn’t have a great night, our receivers dropped some balls that weren’t in the right spots. But then again, Rocky Hill played great defense and if we had a few more minutes maybe our guys get open, but they were pressuring us.”
Of course, there was also the factor of Rocky Hill making its drives count. Out of the Terriers’ seven possessions, four ended with points. The Redcoats, meanwhile, had six possessions - three in each half - with four either ending in a punting situation or a turnover on downs.
“On defense we couldn’t contain,” Berlin offensive/defensive lineman Greg Carson said. “They didn’t get any big gains, but they kept getting five yards a clip and sooner or later, that adds up and they ate up yards and ate up clock. We only put up 10 points and we haven’t done that the entire season.”
While a perfect season is now off the table and a loss is far from the final result the Redcoats wanted, in the end it might have been exactly what they needed with the playoffs quickly approaching.
If anything, it was certainly a learning experience.
“I actually think this could have been the best thing for us,” Aresimowicz said. “Our kids now know that we have to practice really hard, everyone has to do their job, there can be no make up the rules as you go. We have to follow the plan and we didn’t [Friday] and they beat us.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach