BERLIN - The Berlin football team watched its Class M title hopes fall last season when starting quarterback Jack Hamel left with an injury after the first drive.
But this year, the Redcoats are looking to make it past the first round and give head coach Joe Aresimowicz his first playoff victory as they meet fifth-seeded Watertown (8-2) tonight.
Berlin has had a lot of success during the regular season, finishing with an 8-2 record to secure the No. 4 seed in Class M. That being said, the Redcoats are heading into the matchup with a two-game losing streak, Rocky Hill (26-10) and New Britain (51-6) before their bye week.
Berlin doesn’t want to make it three losses in a row at the end of the night. So, here are three things the Redcoats must do in order to be successful:
1. Execute at a high level
Mistakes have been the achilles heel for the Berlin football team. During Week 1, the Redcoats were able to shut out Bulkeley/HMTCA/Weaver in their home opener. Although they won, it wasn’t the prettiest of performances the Redcoats have put on. But it did not end there, these mistakes have been troublesome throughout the entire season, especially in Berlin's last two games against Rocky Hill and New Britain. The Terries won 26-10, while, the Hurricanes were able to score 51 points on the Redcoats, while they only scored once.
If the Redcoats want the chance at the title they have to do something they haven’t done all season - play mistake free, no penalties and no lost yards. If Berlin can manage to play the entire 48 minutes of the game without a single flag being thrown, its chances at advancing to the next round of playoffs enhance.
2. Stop Watertown’s run
Being able to tackle and stop Watertown’s key playmakers such as quarterback Nick D’Elia, receiver John Deptula and running back Adam Alenckis will be vital for the Redcoats.
In Watertown’s Thanksgiving Day game against Torrington, D’Elia completed 10 of his 15 passes for 202 yards with four touchdowns. He also carried the ball four times for 84 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown. Offensively, the Indians tend to run the ball, which puts all eyes on Berlin defense. Alenckis carried the ball 13 times for 251 yards and four touchdowns last Thursday, while Deptula rushed it three times for 69 yards with two touchdowns.
The Redcoats have had trouble stopping the run against quality opponents this season, especially as of late against better quality competition. Against Bloomfield, Berlin gave up 233 yards rushing to Bloomfield only to give up 267 yards to next week at Rocky Hill.
Two weeks ago, the Redcoats had a little trouble stopping New Britain’s run game, allowing them to score seven times throughout the game and rack up 474 yards on the ground. Berlin had two weeks from its game against the Hurricanes to Tuesday to prepare for its matchup against Watertown. Hopefully for the Redcoats, they used that time to focus on what they need to do to become successful.
Defensive back Matt Wojciechowski leads the Redcoats with 104 total tackles, averaging 10.4 tackles a game. James Mazzarella has 87 total tackles on the season, while Zach Hrubiec has 52 solo tackles and seven sacks.
3. Establish their own run game
Much of Berlin’s success offensively during its 8-2 season has been the result of the team being able to run the football. It should also help that the Redcoats have their four key playmakers back in Alex Halkias, Zach Hrubiec, Larry St. Pierre and James Mazzarella. With all four running backs able to play, the Redcoats should be able to make their way into the end zone and score fairly often.
Berlin has rushed for a combined 1,440 yards, an average of 144 yards per game, and 20 touchdowns, while hitting the 100-yard mark three times.
Halkias is the leading runner for the Redcoats with 614 yards and eight touchdowns on 84 carries. Mazzarella has carried the ball 64 times for 259 rushing yards, while Hrubiec has 216 yards on 42 carries. Having only having played in seven of the games this season, St. Pierre has 137 yards on 30 carries.
Shelby Iava can be contacted at (860) 801-5096 or email@example.com