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Berwick defeats Williamsport in an overtime thriller 28-21

BERWICK – One final penalty Friday night wiped a potential game-tying touchdown off the Crispin Field scoreboard. One final mistake ended Williamsport’s game at Berwick.

The Millionaires’ 28-21 overtime loss Friday followed a very familiar pattern. Penalties, turnovers and mistakes left an inconsistent Williamsport team scratching and clawing for a win. Only this time, it didn’t quite have enough big plays in its bag of tricks to overcome those mistakes.

Williamsport committed 12 penalties, turned the ball over three times, and failed to execute in critical moments. Not even the Millionaires’ 359 yards of offense could overcome those problems as it loss to a previous one-win Berwick team.

“You can’t expect to win when you’re doing those things. It’s been a running theme,” Williamsport coach Chuck Crews said. “We’ve just been good enough to overcome them all season, but now it bit us in the butt.”

Berwick surely didn’t play with the fire of a one-win team coming off a 30-point loss to Selinsgrove. It didn’t play like a team whose season was on life support. Instead, the Bulldogs played with a fire and energy which surprised coach Carm DeFrancesco. The Bulldogs knocked out two eight-play touchdown drives. They recovered from Williamsport’s big splash plays. And they found the guts to not only score, but then force a turnover in overtime to resuscitate its season.

On the other side of the field, Williamsport was left waiting yet another week for its best performance to finally come together. That the Millionaires were able to overcome a second-and-29 and a second-and-24 situation on a second-quarter touchdown drive was nice. The problem was they found themselves in those situations at all thanks to penalties and poor execution on offense.

“To be able to put together and grind out a drive would be great,” Crews said. “But when you have an errant snap, or a ball on the ground, or a penalty, you just can’t do that. That’s what stops drives.”

The splash plays were still there for an incendiary Williamsport offense Friday night. Offensive coordinator Kevin Brown went to his bag of tricks early, dialing up a halfback pass from Keith Freeman to D.J. Green on a second-and-22 play in the first quarter. Greene (3 catches, 127 yards) coasted into the end zone for a 77-yard touchdown.

Nasir Hennigan’s 39-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter helped Williamsport overcome a mistake-laden drive which included two penalties and a fumble to give the Millionaires a 14-7 halftime lead.

“The big plays have been our Achilles heel all season long,” Berwick coach Carm DeFrancesco said. “Selinsgrove didn’t drive the ball on us, but we gave up those big plays. But at Selinsgrove we didn’t play with the enthusiasm we played with tonight. We just never gave up.”

Berwick opened the second half with an eight-play drive which was capped by a Ryan Bankes 8-yard touchdown run to pull Berwick within 14-13. Three plays later the Bulldogs’ Dray Wilk intercepted a Frankie Morrone pass and returned it to the Williamsport 6 to set up the second of two Ben Knorr touchdown runs.

Williamsport went to George Whaley at quarterback following that interception, and it was his 51-yard run in the fourth quarter which set up a game-tying touchdown pass to Sebastian Robinson and force overtime.

“Those big plays helped us bring some more air back to the sideline,” Crews said. “All of a sudden you get a big play and it’s like OK, we’re back in here.”

Berwick scored on its first overtime possession when quarterback Matt Lonczynski hit Spencer Kishbaugh with a 6-yard touchdown pass. The Bulldogs hadn’t called a slant pattern the entire game before giving Kishbaugh a chance on it in overtime.

“I think (Lonczynski) saw the slant was there,” DeFrancesco said. “The defender was kind of head up instead of inside. Matt saw it right away. It was designed into the play and Matt had a couple options, but he picked the right option.”

The win left a previous one-win Berwick team with a little momentum heading into the second half of the season. The loss left Williamsport still looking to reach its potential. The Millionaires are 3-2 but have yet to play the kind of crisp, clean game which they’re capable of.

“Part of it is injuries, part of it is execution,” Crews said. The 50 percent we can control and the 50 percent we can’t control. But the 50 percent we can control we must control. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot so we can capitalize on the opportunities when they come.”

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