Battle of unbeatens Indians crush Bearcats, 40-3,
Grafton, rated fifth in the state in Class AA by Charleston Gazette, visited the number six team in the Gazette poll, Berkeley Springs, in one of the feature Class AA match-ups in the state at Morgan Field on Friday, September 7, in Berkeley Springs. The Indians used a "bend-but-don't-break" defense and its vaunted offense to stampede the Bearcats 40-3, in front of a large and enthusiastic home crowd.
"I thought we played well," said Berkeley Springs coach Angelo Luvara. "We were very efficient. We didn't run a lot of plays, but we got the most out of them. Defensively, I thought our kids did a good job of playing their assignments and not getting out of position. We had two huge goal-line stands that really were back breakers for Grafton. I thought linebacker Nick Campanelli, cornerback Sam Byrne and nose tackle Mike Miller had really good games. I was pleased with the team's effort."
Grafton received the opening kickoff and picked up a first down before Berkeley Springs recovered a fumble at the Grafton 45 yard line. Grafton quickly returned the favor intercepting Matt Colwell's pass on first down.
The Bearcats then put together a methodical 13 play drive that ended with a 21 yard field goal, giving the Taylor County opponent a 3-0 lead, with 2:22 remaining in the opening quarter.
Byrne returned the ensuing kickoff out to his own 33 yard line, before runs by Cody Hess and Cody Reed gave the Tribe their initial first down of the game at the Berkeley Springs 44 yard line. The Grafton defense stiffened, forcing an Indian punt. Byrne, who does a little bit of everything for Berkeley Springs, got off a good punt that was downed at the Bearcat 11 yard line.
Grafton quickly gained breathing room when starting quarterback Sean Trickett completed a 19 yard pass on first down, out to the Bearcat 30 yard line. But, the Indian defense stiffened and on a third-and-eleven, Berkeley Springs linebacker Andrew Omerzo stepped in front of a Trickett pass and returned the interception to the Grafton 28 yard line.
Two plays later Hess got the Indians on the board from three yards out and Josh Wise nailed the extra point, giving the Indians their first lead of the night 7-3, at the 9:08 mark of the opening half.
Grafton took over at their own 31 yard line following Wise's kickoff and took just five plays to move the ball down the Berkeley Springs 30 yard line. However, the Indian defense stiffened once more and pushed the Bearcats backward, taking over on downs at their own 37 yard line.
On second-and-ten from the 37, Reed broke through a hole off of left tackle, eluded one defender and sprinted down the left sideline for a 63 yard touchdown, giving the Indians a 13-3 lead with 2:44 remaining before intermission. Wise's extra point attempt was wide right.
Grafton wasn't content to go into the locker room down 10 points and put together a drive into the Berkeley Springs red zone. In fact, they made it inside the Indian 10 yard line, but were unable to get the ball into the end zone, due to good coverage in the Berkeley Springs secondary from Byrne and Dillion Lechliter.
The defensive stand gave the Indians momentum that they carried into the opening drive of the second half.
After taking over at their own 20 yard line following a touchback, back-to-back runs by Hess gave Berkeley Springs a first down at their own 33 yard line. One play later, Reed took a handoff from Colwell, broke through the line, cut to his left and sprinted past the Bearcat defense for a 67 yard touchdown run. Wise added the extra point giving the Indians a 20-3 lead with 10:51 left in the third quarter.
Just when you thought Berkeley Springs had delivered the knock out punch, Grafton came up with a big play. After returning Wise's kickoff out near the midfield stripe, Grafton tailback Damon Waters broke through the right side of the Berkeley Springs defense. It looked like he would score, but a hustling Byrne came out of nowhere to knock Waters out of bounds at the Indian two yard line.
Luvara then inserted Reed, Jake Stotler and Josh Mason into the goal line defense and the strategy paid off. The Bearcats picked up one yard on first down, before Stotler penetrated into the Grafton backfield on second down, dropping the running back for a 4 yard loss. Grafton got those yards back on third down, but were denied the end zone on fourth down, when Miller and Stotler stopped the play at the line of scrimmage.
"Our defense came up really big with those two goal line stands tonight," Luvara said. "You've got to give the defense a lot of credit."
The offense fed off the defensive energy and put the game away with a 99 yard, 11 play drive. After Reed was stopped for no gain on first down, Hess went for seven and four yards on back-to-back carries, giving the Indians a first down at their own 12 yard line. Colwell then ran a pretty bootleg around the right side of the Bearcat defense for 24 yards. He was aided on the play by a devastating block along the near sideline by Reed, which brought "oohs" and "aahs" from the home crowd. A 39 yard pass to J.T. Thomas four plays later gave the Indians a first down at the Bearcat 15 yard line. Hess did the rest, gaining 12 yards on the following play, before scoring from three yards out, giving the Indians an insurmountable 26-3 lead with 2:54 remaining in the third quarter. Anthony Roshel added the extra point to extend the lead to 27-3.
Hess then ripped off a 45 yard touchdown run with 11:23 remaining in the game, before Colwell scored on a 65 yard run for the final margin of victory, with 8:03 left in the contest.
This was a big win for Berkeley Springs, which should be one of the top rated teams in Class AA when the first WVSSAC rankings of the year are released this week.
The Indians will host their third consecutive game this Friday, September 14, when South Hagerstown comes to Morgan Field. South Hagerstown opened their season with a loss, but should provide a good test for Berkeley Springs, according to Luvara.
"They (S. Hagerstown) have some speed; they run pretty well," Luvara said. "They will look a little bit like us on offense and should provide us with a good challenge."
If you haven't seen the Indians play, you are missing something special. This team has some talented players and the backfield tandem of Reed and Hess are the best I've seen in 32 years at Berkeley Springs.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Berkeley Springs Grafton
First Downs 11 13
Rushing 28-391 56-215
Passing 1-3-39, 1 int 5-15-72, 1 int
Individual Rushing Hess, 17-126-2 td; Reed, 9-163-2 td; Colwell, 2-86-1 td
Individual Passing Matt Colwell, 1-3-39, 1 int
Receiving Thomas, 1-39