BERLIN - With 746 yards and eight touchdowns on 102 carries, junior running back Alex Halkias has been running Berlin football to victory this season.
“We put the ball in Alex’s hands and good things happen,” Berlin head coach Joe Aresimowicz said. “When he hits that edge, he’s hard to stop.”
Halkias played in 11 games as a sophomore a year ago, rushing for 637 yards and nine touchdowns. Halkias ran for about 130 yards in Berlin’s first two games of the season. When it came to Week 3, he was unstoppable.
That week, Halkias led the Redcoats to a 24-0 victory over Northwest Catholic.
In the game, Halkias rushed for 125 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown run, as well as a 40-yard passing touchdown from quarterback Kevin Dunn. It was the first time Halkias had rushed for more than 100 yards in a game this season.
Halkias collected his third and final touchdown of the game when he ran 17 yards into the end zone with just four minutes left to play.
“When we went for it on fourth down, I told the offensive coordinator, ‘Leave it up to the kids, let the kids decide,’” Aresimowicz said. “And they called it. Alex said he wanted the ball and he scored. That’s the type of leadership you want from the team.”
Having a junior captain is rare for Berlin. Aresimowicz can only remember two other players that have taken on that role in previous years.
“He’s not a very vocal leader,” Aresimowicz said. “He is more of a leads by actions, but is always there positive. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say anything negative to a player, does not raise his voice. It’s calm, steady and lead by example type of personality. It’s important to have guys like that.
“Being selected as a captain as a junior is pretty phenomenal. It doesn’t happen here [very] often. I think it’s an honor and a test of his maturity and his role model characteristics that he has.”
Dunn and Halkias have been longtime childhood friends and have been playing football together since they were 9.
“He really stepped up this year,” Dunn said. “He’s filled the role and he’s been a great captain and obviously a great player on the field. He knows that he’s probably one of the best kids on the field, that anytime he takes that into account and tries to lead by example for the rest of the players.”
Most of the Redcoats have been playing together since they were young, including junior kicker Giancarlo Tufano, who has been alongside Dunn and Halkias the entire ride.
“I remember when we first started off, we were always strong, but I think as the years progressed he has gotten a lot smarter and obviously a lot stronger. I think that really helped his game a lot.”
During Week 4 and Week 5, Halkias continued to rush for more than 100 yards per game. He ran for 103 yards against RHAM and rushed for a total of 104 yards on nine carries with three touchdowns against Plainville.
Halkias has hit 100 yards four times this season, averaging about 7.3 yards per carry.
In the Redcoats’ latest victory, 27-14 over Watertown, Halkias carried the ball 15 times for 132 yards, the most yards he’s ever run in a game thus far.
Halkias has always played the role of a running back and receiver ever since he could remember.
“It all started with the flag football program here in town,” Halkias said. “I grew up in it and now I’m here. One more year left after this one.”
With aspirations to play in college, Halkias has already made connections with college teams. One college Halkias is looking into in particular is Tufts University.
“When he came in as a freshman he was really talented athletically, but he lacked a little bit of the confidence,” Aresimowicz said. “Now, he’s confident in the ability, for example ball security. He goes, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll never fumble,’ but he’s also turned into one of the biggest advocates for the other players. He’s constantly cheering everyone else on. He’s grown a lot, he really has.”
Berlin finished its regular season with just two blemishes on its record, Rocky Hill (26-10) and New Britain (51-6).
This week the Redcoats will be getting ready for their next competition, top-seeded Killingly, on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. in the semifinals of the Class M state tournament.
Shelby Iava can be contacted at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @shelbyiava