BERWICK Caleb Belle bobbled the kickoff and stumbled while trying to pick it up off the Crispin Field turf.
When the Williamsport kick returner finally got the handle on the kickoff, he found a seam and quickly was gone, headed for a touchdown and avoiding disaster for the Millionaires in the first quarter Friday night against Berwick.
It was the last break a winless Williamsport team got on bobbled kickoffs Friday night. Three more bobbled kickoffs led to tremendous field position for a Berwick team ranked in the top 10 in the state in Class AAA, and the Bulldogs rode that advantage to a 54-14 win over Williamsport. The Millionaires (0-7) remained winless as Berwick improved to 6-1.
The Millionaires also played Friday night without head coach Kevin Choate, who was admitted to the hospital earlier in the week. Choate, who is battling colon cancer, was home Friday night and expects to be back coaching Williamsport next week against Tunkhannock.
Williamsport was already facing maybe its toughest test of the year against a dynamic Berwick offense. Handing the Bulldogs the field position it did certainly didn't help their cause.
After Belle's 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown cut Berwick's lead to 14-7 in the first quarter, the Bulldogs changed kickers and tried a squib kick. But the kick hit a Williamsport up man and the Bulldogs recovered at the 50.
Three plays later Matt Cashman ran for the second of his three first-half touchdown for Berwick. Belle then again mishandled the ensuing kickoff and never got the handle on it, and Berwick recovered at the Williamsport 23-yard line. Later in the second quarter Williamsport was forced to punt from its own 1-yard line and Berwick returned it inside the Williamsport red zone.
Of the nine possessions for Berwick in the first half, they had an average starting position of the Williamsport 45-yard line. Take away a punt that was downed at the Berwick 4 which led to a Berwick touchdown anyway and the average starting position for the Bulldogs was the Williamsport 38.
"You can't, at Crispin Field, let them take over at the 30 with one of the best underclassmen quarterbacks in the state. You just can't let them do that," said Williamsport acting head coach Seth Decker. "That's why George Curry is the winner he is. They kick one deep and we return it. They bring in an entirely new kid and it was really effective. We rep our hands team every week and it's usually to recover onsides kicks, not for one of those dead area side rollers like these. We just didn't manage the ball well."
It seemed, regardless of field position, Berwick was going to be able move the ball last night. Junior quarterback C.J. Curry threw for 202 yards and three touchdowns. Two of which went to Andrew Force, who now has five catches this year, all for touchdowns. The longest of which was an 84-yard strike in the second quarter.
After throwing an incomplete pass on his first attempt, Curry completed his next six passes. He was 7-for-10 and didn't play in the second half.
"We saw they had one-on-one matchups and they didn't have a safety over top, so we knew we could beat them deep," Curry said. "So we went deep a lot and those guys made some outstanding plays."
"C.J. Curry is one of the best underclassmen quarterbacks in the entire state and they have a fleet of wide receivers they bring in," Decker said. "We're going to play the kids that show up and do the right things. It just so happens the kids doing the right things (at cornerback) are sophomores."
The Bulldogs held a 322-23 advantage in yards in the first half as they built a 47-7 lead before a running clock sped up the second half. Berwick allowed Williamsport just 107 yards of offense last night, with 61 coming on a touchdown pass from Jerah Reeves to Achilles Watson in the fourth quarter.