BERLIN - The Berlin football team has been waiting to see tangible evidence of its offensive improvements for nearly two weeks.
The Redcoats have insisted that their offense has looked better in practice and the pieces for success were there, but heading into Friday afternoon’s game against Northwest Catholic, it had yet to fully materialize in game action.
Berlin’s faith in its group was rewarded on Friday, when the Redcoats put together what head coach Joe Aresimowicz and the team called the most efficient performance by his offense so far this season.
“It was the first step in the right direction,” junior Joe Caracoglia said after picking up a touchdown reception in the 26-16 win over the Lions at Sage Park. “There are still some things to work on, but this was a good start.”
After managing just seven points the week before in a loss to Killingly, Berlin found production in all phases of its offense on Friday.
Running back Elijah Crowley eclipsed 100 yards rushing, including a 65-yard touchdown scamper to begin the second half. Caracoglia and Mark Addamo each caught touchdown passes from first-year starting quarterback Justin Skates to round out a balanced attack that helped Berlin hold a lead from the first three minutes of the first quarter to the final whistle.
“We just came out full speed and everyone was doing their job,” Caracoglia said. “We just got going from there.”
Skates really got going from the first snap of the game, which was a welcomed sight for Aresimowicz and the Redcoats’ coaching staff, which had been waiting for Skates to take the next step after showing slow but steady progress through the first month of the regular season.
Skates’ touchdown pass to Caracoglia early in the first quarter was a perfectly-placed ball that Caracoglia grabbed in stride on a quick out just before reaching the sideline. Skates’ pass led Caracoglia just enough so that his receiver was able to stay in bounds and sprint the remaining 15 yards into the end zone, one of Skates’ best passes of the season.
“He’s got a little swag, Justin Skates with a little swag,” Aresimowicz laughed. “He’s a good quarterback, and he can throw the deep ball. He understands the spacing out there, and it’s like having another offensive coordinator on the field. He’s a little vertically impaired and it’s tough to see over the line, but he puts the ball where it needs to go.”
Skates’ height may restrict some of his vision downfield, but based on his throws on Friday, his sight was just fine.
On a Berlin touchdown drive that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Mark Addamo, Skates completed all five of his passing attempts, with two passes of more than 10 yards to set the Redcoats up for what was a 17-3 lead just before halftime.
“He just needed to get a feel for things at first,” Crowley said. “He’s a great quarterback, and now that he’s got it, he’s throwing some really nice balls.”
Skates wasn’t the only player on Berlin’s offense that showed improvement against a Lions defense that had allowed just seven points in their previous game. Addamo and Caracoglio provided Skates with a lot more open looks than in games past, and Crowley represented a reliable back that Aresimowicz can count on while other runners like Kyle Krupa and Adam Liberda make their way back from injuries.
With a bye week this weekend, the Redcoats could have more weapons on offense by the time their next game arrives, which could help the scoring attack take another crucial step forward.
“It’s a great time for a bye week,” Aresimowicz said. “We’ll get healthy and maybe get some of those guys back, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org