BERLIN - With a relentless slew of injuries still pounding the Berlin football team, remaining healthy contributors have been asked to play meaningful snaps on both sides of the football to make up for the Redcoats’ dwindling depth chart.
Joe Caracoglia took that message and ran with it on Friday afternoon against Northwest Catholic.
The junior started the game with a touchdown reception to give Berlin a lead it would never relinquish, then picked off all-conference quarterback Connor Rich three times to lead the Redcoats to a 26-16 win at home. For good measure, Caracoglia also fell on an onside kick to deny the Lions a potential comeback late in the fourth quarter.
“I told them I don’t normally give out game balls for MVP, but if I did, it would have went to Joe Caracoglia,” head coach Joe Aresimowicz said. “It was a great performance.”
Caracoglia’s touchdown less than three minutes into the game came on a strike from quarterback Justin Skates, who helped Berlin capitalize on good field position provided by Northwest Catholic following a strange sequence on the opening kickoff. Berlin’s kick landed at the Lions’ 15-yard line, but Northwest Catholic’s return team stood still and watched the ball roll back to the 24, where Elijah Crowley dove and smothered the ball to give possession to the Redcoats.
“The kid just stood still,” Crowley said. “I saw it, went for it and got it.”
Berlin also had a strong start to the second quarter, putting together a lengthy drive that stalled at the Lions’ six, but Aaron Senz put home a 23-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-0.
Northwest Catholic found life on offense on the ensuing drive, attempting six straight passing plays, completing three of them for a combined 77 yards to enter the red zone. One of Rich’s passes appeared to be picked off by Caracoglia, but the interception was waved off by a pass interference call, setting the Lions up for a short field goal to break the shutout.
Skates saw Rich’s efficient drive and raised him a better one, completing all five of his passes for 51 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Mark Addamo, his third catch of the series, to put the Redcoats in front 17-3.
“Every time one of our teammates makes a play like that, we get hyped for them,” Crowley said of Addamo’s touchdown. “That was a big time play.”
Rich and the Lions attempted to strike back in the waning seconds of the first half, but Rich’s pass was snared by a leaping Caracoglia near midfield, with no flags to be found this time. His turnover party wasn’t close to being done.
For the third straight quarter, Berlin opened with a big play, this time thanks to Crowley, who broke off a 65-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, before the fans had even settled back into their seats.
“It felt great,” Crowley said after picking up 106 total yards on the ground. “I saw the opening gap and just went for it.”
The Lions responded with a touchdown of their own on the next drive, but Berlin reclaimed momentum with a 30-yard field goal by Senz to go up 26-10. Rich answered back with a 33-yard desperation heave to Skye Dolce in the end zone for a touchdown with two minutes to go in the fourth, but Caracoglia grabbed the onside kick and later picked off Rich in the end zone for a third time with 19 seconds left on the clock, sealing Berlin’s third win of the season.
“It was great,” Caracoglio said of his big afternoon. “This was an awesome atmosphere. Everyone stepped up and did their job. It was a big win overall.”