By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
One fear when facing a George Curry team coming off its first loss is always the anger factor.
It’s no secret that, with the legendary coach, who has more wins than any other coach in the state, back in charge in Berwick, the Bulldogs would be out to make a statement.
That’s exactly what the visitors did to open Friday night’s game at Harold L. Bolig Memorial Field, taking the opening possession and driving 70 yards in seven plays to jump in front just 3:08 into the game.
But, after senior halfback Matt Cashman’s 10-yard touchdown run and Olivia Seely’s extra point kick, things really settled down the rest of the way as the Bulldogs outlasted the Seals 17-7.
Berwick used a 27-yard Seely field goal to take a 10-7 lead in the second quarter and that score held until Cashman scored a meaningless TD on a four-yard run with seven seconds left.
Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess said the coaches had adjustments for the Berwick running game, particularly Cashman, but “Our kids didn’t settle in right away. Once we settled in, (our players) caught on. We hadn’t seen that live, and it’s hard to simulate it in practice, with a team like Berwick. Once we caught on, the kids did well.”
The statistics showed that the Bulldogs (4-1), coming off an upset loss to rival Wyoming Valley West, had the better of things, out-gaining the Seals (4-1) on the ground by 203 to 52.
But the visitors had only one other long drive, the one which ended with Seely’s field goal.
Cashman, who finished with a game-high 145 yards on 29 carries, said, “They are a really tough team. They’re really good, and they’re going to hopefully go far in the playoffs with their talent. But we were hoping to get some redemption from last week. We just wanted to punch them in the mouth and take control of the game right away and have the momentum on our side. But they got tougher with some of the stuff we ran at them and they picked up on some of it.”
Berwick coach George Curry had no reason to stop giving the ball to Cashman.
He said it was obvious that neither team was going to be able to throw the ball because of the defensive pressure. “Neither line could protect their quarterback and it resulted in interceptions for both quarterbacks. It’s tough to throw the ball when you’ve got people in your face,” Curry added.
It was a defensive play that set the Seals up for the game-tying TD. Selinsgrove senior free safety Tyler Krebs, also the Seals quarterback, picked off his opposite number, C.J. Curry, at the Berwick 35 on the Bulldogs’ second series, returning it to the 23. Freshman tailback Juvon Batts covered the 23 yards himself in four plays, including a brilliant 18-yard run on which he put a move on a defender who is still looking for him. Kaelan Sullivan tied it at 7-all with his PAT.
Curry said, “He’s a great back. That kid can run.”
When told Batts is a freshman, Curry said, “Wow, he’s just a freshman? He’s going to be something.”
The Seals’ defense stiffened when it had to as it looked like the Bulldogs would drive in for a go-ahead touchdown. Seals senior tackle Billy Parks stuffed Cashman for no gain and, after an incompletion, ran all the way across the field to hit Curry from behind on a sprint-out to force a third-down incompletion.
The defensive pressure continued from both sides and so did the interceptions. Tanner Weaver picked one off for Berwick, but the Seals’ defense forced a three-and-out. In the second half, after Jake Pecorelli had an interception for the Bulldogs, Eddie Try followed up with a pick two plays later. Neither team capitalized. The Bulldogs’ Andrew Wenner made a diving interception with 1:58 to go that led to the final Berwick TD.
Hess, whose team tasted defeat for the first time since the end of last season, told his players, “This was a tremendous opportunity for growth and we have a good football team, We can make this a tremendous positive for us and learn from our mistakes and get a heck of a lot better.”