BERWICK — Fourth-and-23. Ball on the Berwick 37-yard line. Just 34 seconds remaining.
Crestwood quarterback Jay Popson moved around the pocket and launched a pass down field. Freshman receiver Lance Blass leaped high as the football got closer. So did a couple Berwick players. There was contact. Enough contact that an official reached for the penalty flag and gave it a tug. And then he left the yellow cloth tucked in the front of his pants.
Crestwood’s hope of pulling off an improbable upset left as well.
A rather nice fall Saturday afternoon at Crispin Field was much different for Crestwood than that hot August night there, but just not different enough as Berwick escaped with a 14-13 victory in a District 2 Class 3A semifinal game.
Berwick (11-0) will go for its first D2-3A title since 2008 when it hosts Abington Heights (10-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday. Abington Heights defeated Berwick 44-35 in last year’s title game. Crestwood ended its season at 9-2, with the other loss a 41-7 setback to Berwick in the season opener.
Crestwood took over at its 18-yard line with 7:26 to play after Berwick gained the lead on a 22-yard TD run by running back Dain Kowalski. The Comets converted two fourth-down plays — one on a run and another on a pass interference penalty — to move to the Berwick 24 with 2:01 to play. A holding penalty and a sack set up the fourth-and-23 play that had the Crestwood fans screaming for a pass interference penalty.
Although it would have been just a 15-yard penalty and not an automatic first down, it would have given the Comets a crack at a fourth-and-8 situation with 24 seconds and one timeout left.
“Three guys there in a small area fighting for the ball,” Crestwood coach Greg Myers said. “I certainly thought our guy got interfered with, but two out the three guys tripped. It was too close to call. The back judge reached for his flag and pulled it halfway out. That’s all I’m going to say. The way I look at it, it shouldn’t have come down to that.”
There was plenty of evidence to support Myers.
Crestwood outgained Berwick 302-157. It had a 56-yard TD run by running back Frank Aigeldinger negated by a penalty away from the play. The defense sacked Berwick quarterback C.J. Curry four times and held the Dawgs to 23 yards rushing on 19 carries. And five of Berwick’s eight possessions resulted in three-and-outs.
“They’re for real. That’s a good team,” Berwick coach George Curry said. “Yeah, we beat them 41-7. You know why we beat them in the opener? They didn’t know how to cover anyone. You saw a big difference today. They made one mistake and we saw it.”
Curry threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns — both career highs — in the season-opening win over Crestwood. He finished 6-of-12 for 134 yards, but as his coach/grandfather said there was that one mistake in coverage.
Berwick got receiver Kyle Trenholm in a one-on-one man situations and Curry lofted a perfect 51-yard touchdown strike at 1:55 of the second quarter. Olivia Seely’s point-after gave Berwick a 7-6 lead at halftime, but didn’t leave Curry the coach feeling good.
“Not at all,” C.J. Curry said. “It would be hard to be pleased about the way we played in the first half. It wasn’t good football, it wasn’t Berwick football.”
Nor was it based on the way Aigeldinger was ripping through the Dawgs defense. He carried 25 times for 176 yards — 121 more than when the teams first played and 72 more than the defense was allowing per game. His 6-yard TD run, where Popson threw a key block, helped Crestwood regain a 13-7 lead at 7:10 of the third quarter.
The Dawgs, though, answered with their only sustained drive to take the lead for good. They moved from their 20 to the Crestwood 22 on five plays, with Curry connecting on passes of 31 yards to Paul Jay Wiegand and 13 to Ian Mazonkey along the way.
The running game then woke up as Kowalski shot through the defense for his 22-yard touchdown. The extra-point gave Berwick its 14-13 lead with 7:27 to play. Up to that point, Berwick had 5 yards rushing.
“They were playing eight in the box and blitzing all the gaps,” Kowalski said. “We blocked it once, I found the hole and took off. We tried doing it early in the game and they were blowing it up.”
Berwick 14, Crestwood 13
CRE — Frank Aigeldinger 53 run (kick failed), 4:56
BER — Kyle Trenholm 51 pass from CJ Curry (Olivia Seely kick), 1:55
CRE — Aigeldinger 6 run (George Gendler kick), 7:10
BER — Dain Kowalski 22 run (Seely kick), 7:27
RUSHING — Crestwood, Aigeldinger 25-176, Jay Popson 16-13, Tanner Kahalu 3-8. Matt Bobeck 2-13, team 1-(minus-12). Berwick, Kowalski 5-41, Jorden Stout 3-7, Curry 9-(minus-24), Trenholm 1-3.
PASSING — Crestwood, Popson 5-13-1-104. Berwick, Curry 6-12-0-134.
RECEIVING — Crestwood, Connor Sheloski 3-42, Tim Tokash 2-62. Berwick, Andrew Force 2-33, Trenholm 1-51, Trevon Simmons 1-6, Paul Jat Wiegand 1-31, Ian Mazonkey 1-13.
INTERCEPTIONS — Berwick, Kowalski 1-0.
MISSED FGs — none.