It rained on the Berkeley Stags’ 2013 homecoming game against the Stall Warriors on Friday night.
But in the end, it was Berkeley that reigned supreme, winning 41-10 behind three Joseph Dress touchdowns, two on the ground and one through the air.
The Stags scored in almost every possible fashion: on the ground, through the air, on special teams and on defense to improve to 4-4 on the season and 2-2 in Region 8AAA play.
Dee Harley added a 47-yard punt return for a score and linebacker Darius Nelson scooped up a fumble and rambled 38-yards for the game’s final touchdown.
The Stags face showdowns against a top 10 ranked Orangeburg-Wilkinson at home on Friday and a season-ending roadtrip to Hilton Head on Nov. 1.
Both games carry playoff implications for the Stags, Berkeley’s playoff seeding, the success of the season overall, and the short legacy of Coach Jeff Cruce, now in his third year.
Win and the Stags finish the regular season with a 6-4 mark, guaranteeing Cruce his first winning season at the helm.
Anything less will be seen as more of the same by some fans.
“We played like we practiced this week,” Cruce said Friday. “It was what we needed to beat Stall, but this effort won’t do it if we want to beat Orangeburg-Wilkinson next week.”
Neither team was able to crack the ice in the first quarter in the rain, but when the skies let up after the game’s first 12 minutes,
Berkeley found its offense in the second quarter as Dress, playing a full game for the first time in almost a month after suffering an ankle injury, directed the Stags’ offense on a 70-yard 10-play drive capped by a Josh Sellers 5-yard touchdown run. The Vance Bailey PAT put BHS on top 7-0.
Dress would then cap a second scoring drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Deion Williams to put the Stags on top 14-0 with 2:50 left in the half. On the previous play, Dress broke right for a 17-yard run to set up the scoring pass to Williams.
“We played well on all sides of the ball, offense, defense and special teams,” Cruce said.
The Warriors came out of the locker room by catching the Stags off guard with an opening onside kick.
Warrior quarterback Jordan Carswell rode that momentum for Stall’s only touchdown of the game. He hit Jacquee Johnson-Drayton with a three-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 14-7 at the 7:32 mark of the third quarter.
After the ensuing Stags’ drive ended on a Dress interception, the Warrior offense stalled, and the visitors were forced to punt.
Dee Harley caught the punt in stride and took off down the right sideline untouched for a 47-yard touchdown run, taking the wind out of any Stall second half momentum.
In the fourth quarter, the Stags defense took over.
After Dress tallied his second TD of this soggy night on a 29-yard run early in the fourth to go up 28-7, Tyler Crouse set up Berkeley’s next touchdown with his second interception of the night, taking the pick to the one-yard line.
Dress scored again on a quarterback keeper from six yards out to put the Stags up 35-7.
But the Berkeley defense wasn’t finished.
Linebacker Darius Nelson scooped up a Carswell fumble and rumbled 32 yards for the game’s final touchdown.
A late Stall field goal closed out the scoring at 41-10.
With the win Berkeley improves to 4-4, and 2-2, drawing back to .500 going into the season’s biggest two games and the final two of the season.
The Stags host the Bruins on Friday and travel to Hilton Head to take on the Seahawks in the regular season finale.
How Berkeley fares in the season’s final two games determines its playoff seeding and its fate in 2013.
“This is why we play,” Cruce said.
Kickoff Friday night is at 7:30 p.m.