As Wyoming Valley West coach Pat Keating finished up his postgame talk to his team last Friday, he ended a moratorium. It was now OK to talk about playing Berwick.
The Spartans let out a cheer, but in all likelihood they were discussing the game prior to defeating Scranton. And probably before that as well. Same goes for the Dawgs, who defeated Dallas the following afternoon. That’s just how it is with high school football rivalries.
The teams will meet for the 39th time at 7 p.m. today at Berwick’s Crispin Field. Both come in 3-0 and both know what’s in store before an expected full house.
“They’re athletic at the skill positions and everything starts with (quarterback) C.J. Curry,” Keating said. “He’s a very talented kid. He’s smart, he can throw and he seems to be putting up a lot of stats right now. We’re going to have our work cut out, both mentally and physically.”
Berwick won 17 of 19 matchup between 1987-2005, many by lopsided scores. Valley West’s only wins during that span were 3-0 in 1997 and 14-13 in 2002. The Spartans, though, have dominated the series recently, with six wins in the last seven meetings.
Last year’s 33-15 victory over the Dawgs was much more one-sided than the final score indicated. Curry had the worst game of his career, going 1 of 12 for 8 yards and throwing two interceptions. The Berwick running game barely made a whimper, with 54 yards on 33 carries. Meanwhile, Valley West rushed for a season-high 352 yards. Berwick had allowed a combined 245 rushing yards to its first three opponents in 2012.
“Valley West is a lot like us,” Berwick coach George Curry said. “I think we’re very similar and run a lot of the same stuff. The only thing they got going is they have a lot more depth. He’s rotating two or three defensive lines. He’s got some good skill kids, a quarterback who can do things with his feet and his arm. He has a nice package and can run a lot of stuff.”
The focal point for both teams is their quarterback. Curry, the coach’s grandson, leads the Wyoming Valley Conference with 757 passing yards. His seven TD throws are tied for the most. Valley West’s Mike Baur doesn’t have as gaudy numbers — 413 yards and three TD passes — but leads all WVC quarterbacks by hitting on 60 percent of his throws.
Baur is also a very good runner. His 243 yards and three touchdowns rushing are second only to running back Eric Acosta, who has 273 yards and four TDs.
Berwick worked on its running game in the second half of Saturday’s 37-7 victory at Dallas. Running back Dain Kowalski, who transferred in from Central Columbia, had a season-best 90 yards on the ground. However, the Dawgs are light on experience in the trenches, with Kyle Stearley the only senior.
“It’s a question of matchups,” Curry said. “Is there anybody we have that they’ll have a problem with?”
A possible answer — Berwick receiver Andrew Force. The 6-foot-3 junior put up some incredible numbers in last year’s regular season and continued this year. He has 16 receptions during that time with 11 resulting in touchdowns. And he has averaged 42 yards per catch.
Valley West heads to Berwick off a 28-14 victory over Scranton, a game in the big scheme of things that was probably more important for a postseason berth than tonight’s. The Spartans have the longest winning streak in District 2 at eight games. Scranton Prep is second with six consecutive victories.
“We played in a number of close games now dating back to the end of last season,” Keating said. “I’m happy with the way our kids are always finding a way to win close games. That’s the big thing right now.”