BERWICK – Desperation passes are usually reserved for the end of first half or at the end of the game.
Sometimes, though, those heaves come at a different time. And when they are successful, they can be just as devastating.
Like on Saturday afternoon.
C.J. Curry connected on a 31-yard fourth-down pass to Jeff Steeber, setting up the first of three Berwick touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the Dawgs defeated Dallas 28-7 in a District 2 Class 3A semifinal game.
Berwick (10-1) returns to the D2-3A title game for the first time since 2008. The Dawgs will host Abington Heights (9-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday. Dallas ended its year at 7-4, losing for the first time since a 50-14 setback to Berwick on Sept. 14.
We just played a very good football team, no question about it, Dallas coach Bob Zaruta said. I just said to the players that eight weeks ago we were here and hurting afterwards and feeling down. But it was a different kind of feeling in the locker room today. We went toe-to-toe with a very good football team.
We accomplished a lot this year, especially from the fourth week on, so there's a lot to be proud of.
Berwick led 9-7 after three quarters. But consecutive sacks of Curry to end the period put the Dawgs in a fourth-and-23 at the Dallas 36-yard line to start the fourth. That's when the momentum – something neither team could fully grasp prior – swung completely Berwick's way and stayed there.
Curry dropped back to pass and again was under a strong rush. He bought some time with his feet, then produced a heartbreaker for Dallas with his arm as he launched a pass to Steeber. Steeber made a sliding catch at the 5, and running back Matt Cashman scored on the next play for a 15-7 lead.
I was running a post (pattern) and he scrambled right so I drifted right, Steeber said. I saw the ball coming and saw (Jake Pecorelli) underneath and (Dallas' Darik) Johnson was behind him. The ball just went over Johnson. He put it right on the money.
Dallas' offense showed some life late in the second quarter, going on a 13-play, 77-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Ryan Zapoticky finished it with a 4-yard TD pass to running back Kris Roccograndi, who sliced between blocks by receiver Jason Simonovich and lineman Logan Bullock to score.
The extra point cut the deficit to 9-7, but it was the last time the Mountaineers did anything of merit with the ball.
Pass protection for Zapoticky broke down often in the final two quarters. That, along with outstanding coverage from the secondary, resulted in Berwick recording all eight of its sacks in the second half.
We just played harder, Berwick defensive end Zach Ladonis said. We just came out a little bit cocky. We got hit in the mouth in the first half, but then the second half we came out and put it to them.
A 15-yard sack by Ladonis on Dallas' possession following Cashman's touchdown run led to a punt. The Dawgs sealed the game by going on an 84-yard scoring drive, with Steeber running around right end for 33 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead with four minutes left.
If that didn't seal the game completely, then Ladonis' 13-yard interception return for a score with 45 seconds left certainly did.
Berwick finished with 272 yards of offense, well below its regular-season average of 356.5. Part of the season was Dallas' pass rush, which sacked Curry seven times.
We couldn't block Simonovich. The kid is an animal, Berwick coach George Curry said. But finally in the second half we challenged some kids and got some blocks. That's the key.
District 2 Class 3A Semifinal
Berwick 28, Dallas 7
BER – Olivia Seely 25 FG, 3:20
BER – Jake Pecorelli 38 pass from C.J. Curry (kick failed), 7:13
DAL – Kris Roccograndi 4 pass from Ryan Zapoticky (Ryan Kozloski kick), 0:45
BER – Matt Cashman 5 run (kick blocked), 11:38
BER – Jeff Steeber 33 run (pass failed), 4:00
BER – Zach Ladonis 13 interception return (Seely kick), 0:45
RUSHING – Dallas, Roccograndi 9-24, Zapoticky 20-28, Justin Mucha 1-(minus-3), Bill Gately 2-4, team 1-(minus-1). Berwick, Cashman 24-47, Curry 17-5, Jordan Stout 2-8, Steeber 7-73, Pecorelli 1-6.
PASSING – Dallas, Zapoticky 6-13-1-71. Berwick, Curry 6-11-0-133, team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING – Dallas, Kyle Zumchak 2-12, Darik Johnson 2-22, Roccograndi 1-4, Jason Simonovich 1-33. Berwick, Steeber 2-35, Pecorelli 2-85, Zach Ladonis 1-6, Andrew Force 1-7.
INTS – Ladonis 1-13.
MISSED FGS – Dallas 41 BLK.