BY MIKE MASTOVICH
When Berlin and Meyersdale meet on the football field, the border rivalry traditionally produces a hard-fought game regardless of how the two teams are faring in the standings.
This season, both the undefeated Mountaineers and once-beaten Red Raiders are among the top teams in the WestPAC, which only enhances an already much-anticipated meeting at Meyersdale tonight.
“It’s a rivalry game. Normally you can throw records out the window with this one,” said Berlin coach Doug Paul, whose team is 7-0 and has outscored opponents 286-52. “But this year both teams are having outstanding seasons. It should be an electric atmosphere.”
Meyersdale coach Chris Schrock pointed to both tangible and intangible reasons this will be a big test for his 6-1 squad.
“It’s always a huge rivalry. Our kids are always fired up to play them and their kids are fired up to play us no matter what,” Schrock said. “I’m sure everybody understands the gravity of the situation. It’s more than bragging rights.
“Potentially,” Schrock added, “the winner of this game could be the No. 1 seed (in District 5-A) depending on how things play out in Bedford County. It’s a share of the conference title. It’s homefield advantage and at least a bye week. It’s a lot more than the backyard brawl.”
Berlin has the area’s leading rusher and only 100-point scorer in sophomore back Braden Fochtman, who has 1,252 yards, 16 touchdowns and 102 points on 112 carries. He averages 11.2 yards per carry and 178.9 a game.
“We’re going to have to stop a pretty high-powered offense,” Schrock said. “They have one of the best running backs, if not the best, in the area. The more I watch him on film, the more I’m impressed. But as the weeks have gone on, they’ve become more and more multidimensional. They have a variety of weapons they’re using.”
Berlin senior quarterback EJ Custer has thrown for 456 yards and six touchdowns. Senior Nick Stockwell has 12 receptions for 333 yards and seven touchdowns. A dozen other runners have positive yards to complement Fochtman as the Mountaineers have 2,044 rushing yards as a team, an average of 292 a game, with 30 rushing touchdowns.
“We’ve tried to make it a point that we had to get some other people involved in the offense,” Paul said. “Braden is averaging 10 or 11 yards a carry. Sometimes you fall into that trap and just give him the ball, give him the ball. If you’re going to have success in the playoffs, you have to have other kids involved in the offense.”
Meyersdale has relied on back Gavin Berkley, who ranks sixth in the area with 684 rushing yards on 95 carries. His totals might be better, but the Raiders have only played six games on the field due to a forfeit win over Ferndale.
Meyersdale has gained 1,472 yards on the ground, an average of 210.3 a game, and scored 23 rushing touchdowns.
The Red Raiders’ defense, led by Berkley’s 60 tackles, has helped Meyersdale post a 215-81 scoring advantage over opponents.
“Three big things jump out at me,” Paul said of Meyersdale. “No. 1 is their physical size. They’re big. They’re like a Division III football team. Their offensive line averages 250 pounds. The second thing that jumps out on me is their defense. They’re a really aggressive, get-at-it defense. Their kids fly to the ball and will hit you. The third thing that jumps out is Gavin Berkley. He runs hard. I don’t know if we’ve seen a back like him all year.”
Schrock is counting on Berkley and company to carry a big load.
“Our offense has to stay on the field,” Schrock said. “We need to be able to go on long drives and possess the ball. Keep the ball out of their hands. That might end up being our best defense, a ball-control offense that can eat the clock.”
BY MIKE MASTOVICH
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