BERLIN - With a 21-0 lead in hand early in the third quarter, the Berlin football team did just enough to hang on and secure a 27-14 win over Watertown on Tuesday night in the Class M quarterfinal clash.
“It was a battle,” Redcoats tailback James Mazzarella said. “We had so much fun out there. It was probably the most fun we’ve had all season. We fought like heck, but we kept pushing ourselves and at halftime we were only up by 14 [points] and our coach told us it’s not over yet. We want more and that’s what we came out with.”
In the first quarter, Berlin (9-2) got the ball to begin the game and the start could have been cause for concern as the Redcoats committed a pair of penalties and quarterback Kevin Dunn was intercepted, allowing the Indians (8-3) to take over at their own 11-yard line.
Watertown showed off a balanced offensive attack on its first possession with a pair of screen passes that Berlin struggled to tackle in the open field. With the drive down into the red zone, the Indians were faced with a fourth down and failed to convert as Berlin took the ball back with 84 yards to go.
The Redcoats quickly drove down the field with Alex Halkias breaking off long runs to set Berlin up with a red-zone opportunity that was capped off on a 9-yard touchdown run by Larry St. Pierre to go up 7-0 with 1:27 to go in the first quarter.
“We rested him in the New Britain game and the rest paid off,” Berlin head coach Joe Aresimowicz said. “He’s one of the best backs that I’ve seen in awhile and he’s only a junior.”
On the next possession for the Indians, Berlin sophomore defensive back Tony Undercuffler made his impact felt as he read a screen pass perfectly on a third down to stuff Watertown and force a punt.
Dunn set the Redcoats up with an opportunity from the Indians 9-yard line after a pair of passes on the drive and a first down run that he escaped pressure and used his legs to pick up the first down.
St. Pierre delivered his second touchdown of the game, this time on a 9-yard pass from Dunn with 7:25 left in the half.
The Berlin defense played the run strong, keeping the Indians off the scoreboard and cleaned up the open field tackling as the only blemish for the Redcoats were the two interceptions by Dunn.
In the second half, Dunn cleaned up the mistakes and did not turn the ball over again.
Watertown started the second half out on its own 23-yard line and was driving until Undercuffler made his second big play of the game with a interception of Nick D’elia.
“A sophomore player, incredible,” Aresimowicz said. “Playing tough and a great kid.”
The Redcoats made sure to capitalize with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Dunn to Giancarlo Tufano, his second touchdown pass of the evening.
On the ensuing possession, the Indians had driven the ball all the way to the Berlin 4-yard line before an unsportsmanlike penalty on a 4th-down conversion wiped it away.
The penalty set the Indians back to the 19-yard line and D’elia delivered a touchdown strike to Daniel Graziano for the first Indians touchdown of the game.
With its first score, Watertown had momentum on its side and on the first play of the next possession for Berlin, Dunn was sacked by Adam Alenckis for a 10-yard loss.
But the Redcoats caught a huge break with Dunn, throwing a errant pass that was tipped by the Indians’ defense, fell right into the hands of Andrew Brochu for a 58-yard touchdown pass. It was the third touchdown of the night for Dunn.
The Indians’ offense responded with a 14-yard touchdown pass from D’elia to Joe Deptula with 7:33 remaining in the final quarter.
Watertown attempted an onside kick attempt only for the Redcoats’ Marco Scarano to recover the football.
With the clock winding down, the Indians needed a strong defensive stand and got it, but Dunn pinned them on their 1-yard line on a punt, forcing them to drive 99 yards for a score.
The Redcoats made sure to finish the game and stuffed Deptula on a 4th-and-3 run. Then, Dunn sneaked for a first down on 4th-and-1 with under 2:30 remaining in the contest.
Time ran out as the Redcoats won their quarterfinal game and will travel to face unbeaten Killingly (11-0) on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan