WALLINGFORD — It didn’t take long for Kevin Dunn to know it was going to be the Berlin football team’s night.
Was it after his first touchdown pass? Nope.
The first stop by the Redcoats’ defense? Negative.
In fact, that feeling came before the opening kickoff of Monday night’s Class M semifinal matchup against Sheehan.
“[I knew] right when we got off the bus,” the Berlin quarterback said after he and his teammates stormed John J. Riccitelli Field.
Boy, did the Redcoats play like it.
Led by Dunn, who threw four touchdown passes — two to Alex Halkias — ran for another and recovered a fumble on defense, third-seeded Berlin beat the second-seeded Titans 34-22 to secure the program’s first trip to the Class M championship since 2014.
The Redcoats (11-1) will face No. 1 St. Joseph (11-1) on Saturday at a time and place that still has to be determined.
“It’s a dream come true,” Halkias said. “This group of seniors, we’ve been dreaming of this since we were little kids, since we were playing midget football in Berlin. It means the world. We’re here and now we have to get it done.”
It was a game that was never as close as the final score indicated. The Redcoats never trailed and throughout most of the night played the way they wanted to play: spread the ball out to their playmakers on offense and play stifling defense. In other words, Sheehan (10-2) never stood much of a chance.
By halftime, Berlin held a 21-6 lead, which only grew to 34-6 heading into the final quarter.
It started on the Redcoats’ third drive of the game when Dunn connected with Giancarlo Tufano on an 18-yard touchdown to cap off an 82-yard drive with 3:41 left on the first-quarter clock.
The senior signal caller then hit Halkias for a 4-yard score to take a 14-0 lead as the period expired. The two had connected on a 43-yard pass two plays prior to set up the touchdown. Halkias later scored on a 34-yard catch up the seam at the 7:34 mark in the third.
The senior tailback finished the day with 185 total yards — 111 receiving and 74 rushing. He also picked off Titans quarterback Weston Terzi on the drive after his second touchdown.
In between Halkias’s scores, Zach Hrubiec added a 63-yard catch-and-run with 2:45 left in the first half. Dunn’s 13-yard touchdown run at the end of the third extended Berlin’s lead to 34-6.
“We always say to each other, ‘if they lock up one of us, they lock up one, two, three, there’s always more people to make plays,’” Halkias said. “Zach wide open down the field, [Andrew] Brochu making plays on third and fourth down, you can’t take away all of us. Someone will always be open. Someone will always make a play.”
The Redcoats had six different skill position players touch the ball at least once Monday night, three of who finished with 65 yards or more of total offense: Halkias (185), Hrubiec (81) and Marco Scarano (65).
Dunn, meanwhile, completed 14-of-22 passes for 257 yards. His counterpart, Terzi, threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-39 passing, including a 61-yarder to Jake Smith in the second quarter and a 16-yard touchdown pass Jordan Davis to open up the fourth quarter.
But much of Berlin’s focus was on stopping the state’s leading rusher, Terrence Bogan, who came into the semifinal matchup with 2,335 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Redcoats head coach Joe Aresimowicz said after the game his players set a goal to keep the sophomore tailback to 150 yards or less. Bogan finished with 149 yards and a score, which came on a 3-yard run with 16 seconds remaining and the game well out of reach. He often had trouble making it past Berlin’s defensive line and if he did get to the second level, was often brought down immediately.
“In practice, we were working on filling the gaps and understanding how he runs, reading the guards and things like that,” Scarano said. “During the game, we just filled the holes and we knew everything would be good if we did our jobs.”
Added Aresimowicz, “[Our kids] were absolutely flying around tonight. Marco Scarano flying around making tackles and so were the other kids. It’s a real team defense and they rallied to the ball all night.”
Now, all that sits between Berlin and its first state championship since 2009 is the Cadets, who took out the defending Class M champion Killingly 52-7 on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a big-time game,” Dunn said. “St. Joe’s is not a slack of a team by any means. They’re a great team, so we know we have to have a great week of practice to give them a fight.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NO. 3 BERLIN 34, NO. 2 SHEEHAN 22
At Sheehan, Wallingford (Class M semifinal)
Berlin (11-1) 14 7 13 0 — 34
Sheehan (10-2) 0 6 0 16 — 22
B—Giancarlo Tufano 18 pass from Kevin Dunn (Tufano kick), 3:41
B—Alex Halkias 4 pass from Dunn (Tufano kick), 0:00
B—Zach Hrubiec 63 pass from Dunn (Tufano kick), 2:45
S—Jake Smith 61 pass from Weston Terzi (kick failed), 1:43
B—Halkias 34 pass from Dunn (Kick failed), 7:34
B—Dunn 13 run (Tufano kick), 1:53
S—Jordan Davis 15 pass from Terzi (Tyler Ekstrom pass from Davis), 11:53
S—Terrence Bogan 3 run (Smith run), 0:16
Rushing—Berlin: Alex Halkias 22-74, Marco Scarano 6-54, Larry St. Pierre 4-38, Kevin Dunn 3-4-TD, Zach Hrubiec 2-4. Sheehan: Terrence Bogan 212-149-TD, Weston Terzi 2-(-1).
Passing—Berlin: Dunn 14-22-257-4TD. Sheehan: Terzi 17-39-190-2TD-INT.
Receiving—Berlin: Halkias 5-111-2TD, Hrubiec 3-77-TD, Andrew Brochu 2-31, Giancarlo Tufano 2-27-TD, Scarano 2-11. Sheehan: Jake Smith 8-129-TD, Aaron Simmons 4-29, Jordan Davis 2-19-TD, Ryan Paul 2-17, Tyler Ekstrom 1-6.