Big plays bite Stags
If anyone happened to overhear Summerville Coach John McKissick after the Green Wave’s 43-20 win over Berkeley last Friday night at BHS, they would think the scoreboard had the numbers wrong.
“They beat the tar out of us,” the legendary coach said. “They outgained us and they had more first downs than we did.”
McKissick held up three fingers.
“We had three big plays, that’s it,” he said.
The three big plays McKissick referenced were three big touchdowns: A 77-yard catch and run touchdown pass from Sawyer Bridges to Darin Smalls, a 71-yard fourth quarter punt return, again by Smalls, and a dagger-to-the-heart 56-yard run up the middle by David Coccoli.
“We played our butts off out there,” Berkeley Head Coach Jeff Cruce said. “We have nothing to hang our heads about. We established our running game and we put points on the board.
“Take away those three big plays and we’re in this football game.”
It’s the big plays though, that continue to haunt the Stags in the season’s early going. Including the pre-season scrimmages and the season opener against Stratford, those plays include six touchdowns resulted from kicking team miscues, and four from interceptions. The silver lining around this dark cloud is there were no bad snaps on punts and except for the one punt return late for a score, the kicking game and special teams play was solid against Summerville.
“We kicked a pair of field goals and improved in the special teams area,” Cruce said.
Kicker Vance Bailey is perfect from the field, nailing three field goals in three attempts over two games.
In the first quarter the Green Wave took command and marched 60 yards on five plays on its first possession, culminating in a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sawyer Bridges to big tight end Sean Smith.
Berkeley answered quickly when Joseph Dress scored on a 55-yard run, a play action fake that fooled just about everybody on the field, on the sidelines and the 4,000 fans packing the Bonner Stadium stands. Bailey’s kick put the Stags on top 7-6.
The Green Wave answered with a 20-point second quarter that threatened to put the game away before halftime. Jacerie Ponder scored on an 8-yard run at the 11:01 mark of the quarter to make the score 12-7.
Three minutes later Bridges connected with his second TD pass of the night, a 77-yard catch and run to Darin Smalls. David Kennedy’s PAT was good and Summerville went up by a 19-7 score.
Bridges would set up the Green Wave’s third touchdown of the second quarter with an 11-yard pass to his tight end Smith and then take matters into his own hands to score on a one-yard plunge to make the score 26-7 with less than five minutes remaining in the first half.
The Stags would not go down without a fight, though, as Josh Simmons picked off a Bridges pass deep in Berkeley territory. He returned the interception 56 yards to the Summerville 20.
Dress nearly scored his second touchdown of the night with a 16-yard run to the four-yard line, but was hurt on the play and did not see action the rest of the night.
The drive stalled at the goal line and Bailey knocked a 21-yard field goal through the uprights with 11.5 seconds remaining on the clock.
“He got banged up a little on the play,” Cruce said of his quarterback’s injury. “He’ll be fine for next week. Matthew Harkness did an excellent job in his place. He played well.”
As it did in the Stratford game, the Stags defense stepped it up in the third quarter, shutting down the Green Wave offense as Berkeley battled back to cut the score to 26-17 on an 18-yard run by Josh Sellers with 1:52 left in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Summerville kicker David Kennedy snatched the Stags’ momentum away when he drilled a 44-yard field goal to make the score 29-17 at the 10:24 mark.
It all went down hill from there for the gold-attired Stags.
Smalls followed with his third TD of the night, the 77-yard punt return at the 7:51 mark to make the score 36-17.
Bailey drilled his second field goal of the night, a 36-yard kick to close the gap to 36-20 with a little less than six minutes remaining in the game.
Three plays later tailback David Coccoli ripped off a 55-yard scoring run untouched up the middle to put the game on ice 43-20.
“We’re improving,” Cruce said. “We corrected some mistakes we were making early on. Our primary goal was to come in and establish the running game, and we did that.
“Our kicking game and special teams play improved. I’m proud of our kids. We gave up some big plays but we have the makings of a good football team.”
McKissick, who picked up his 604th career win, agreed.
“We had three big plays and that was the difference,” he said. “They moved the ball up and down the field at will. Our big plays were the difference.
“It’s as simple as that.”
The Green Wave improved to 2-0 and play Goose Creek on Friday. The Stags dropped to 0-2 and host Cane Bay.
McKissick said his Green Wave had better be ready when the Gators come to call. “We have to play better,” he said.
For the Stags, Cane Bay marks their third straight Class AAAA opponent of the season, sixth if the pre-season scrimmages are included.
“We will have played three AAAA schools so far this year,” Cruce said. “We had scrimmages against Wando, Beaufort and Goose Creek. Then Goose Creek again at Sertoma, and we start the season against Stratford, Summerville and now Cane Bay.”
The Stags will be ready, he added: “It’s always a big game when Berkeley plays Cane Bay.”