The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Columnists

September 19, 2013

MIKE MASTOVICH| Experienced players valuable for Meyersdale

JOHNSTOWN — Gavin Berkley will make his 34th career start when undefeated Meyersdale hosts once-beaten Portage on Friday night.

The Red Raiders senior two-way standout has experienced plenty of highs and lows during the past three-plus seasons.

The 6-foot, 206-pound tailback/inside linebacker and his teammates learned a lot through the tough times in a

1-9 season last year.

“The kid has been in more than his fair share of losses. Last season was a tough season,” Meyersdale coach Chris Schrock said. “That motivates the entire team. Being out there last year as a junior and getting knocked around out there, Gavin really was able to keep focused in the offseason but also on the practice field now and on the game field on Friday nights. He’s pretty much seen it all.”

Berkley is one reason Meyersdale is 3-0, with a Week 2 win over visiting Windber as an early highlight.

The Raiders will need him to have another productive outing against a 2-1 Portage team labeled the WestPAC favorite at the season’s outset.

“Berkley just runs hard,” Portage coach Gary Gouse said. “He’s way back in that pistol look and he’s coming downhill as a force.

“We have to get around him before he gets started. He’s a hard-nosed tough runner. We’re facing a powerful team. This is a right-at-you team.”

Berkley’s 359 rushing yards rank second in the area to Berlin’s Braden Fochtman’s 578.

He and Fochtman are tied for the area scoring lead with seven touchdowns and 42 points each.

Defensively, Berkley ranks in the top six with 35 tackles, including 23 solo stops.

“In general he’s a very good athlete,” Schrock said. “I don’t know that I have coached a player that has prepared both in the offseason and during the course of a season as much as what Gavin does. The kid’s work ethic is unbelievable in the weight room, the track and field, in the classroom, watching film.

“He prepares in every facet of the game. When we go out on the field on Friday night he’s as well prepared as any player we’ve had.”

If Meyersdale continues to progress, Berkley and the other Red Raiders seniors would be part of a winning team for the first time in their varsity careers.

In addition to last year’s one-win season, Meyersdale went 5-5 in 2011 and 4-6 in 2010.

“Gavin has some speed and he has great strength, and the other advantage he has on both sides of the ball is he’s a three-year starter,” Schrock said. “He’s experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. He’s a great leader. He’s the type of kid every coach wishes they had.”

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