Big plays on special teams help Farmington Hills Harrison defeat Berkley, 28-13, in second-round high school football Division 2 playoff action
Jake Thielen | MLive.com, November 06, 2010 9:46 p.m.
Farmington Hills Harrison didn’t produce much offensively, but the Hawks’ special teams came through in a big way in a 28-13 win over Berkley, 28-13, in a second-round high school football Division 2 playoff game Saturday afternoon.
The Hawks had a pair of 78-yard scores on special teams, the first from Aaron Burbridge on a punt return, and the second on a kickoff return by Jake Vento.
Farmington Hills Harrison will host Warren De La Salle, which defeated St. Clair Shores Lakeview 24-0 Friday night, in a quarterfinal game next Saturday.
Harrison coach John Herrington said the play of the special teams unit was key in helping Harrison overcome an off day from its offense.
“(Harrison special teams coach) John Witkowski did a great job,” Herrington said. “He said he thought we’d run one back in this game, and we actually ran two back.
Harrison quarterback Tommy Vento struggled to move the ball through the air, passing for 81 yards on just 2-of-11 passing with two interceptions.
The Hawks only had 199 yards of total offense in the game.
Herrington said he had never seen his offense struggle like that before.
“Berkley does frustrate you by hanging onto the ball, and when you get it you got to do something with it, and we didn’t,” Herrington said. “We missed open receivers, and we turned the ball over.
“Luckily, we had some athletes that made plays at the end.”
The Harrison defense also helped the cause by limited Berkley’s star running back, Terrell Porter, to just 46 yards on 22 carries, though Porter did score two touchdowns.
Herrington said stopping Porter was key to stopping the Berkley offense.
“We knew we had to get people there, and we’re very fast,” Herrington said. “We thought we might be able to do that when (Porter) went wide.
“They got the one little flare pass on us there that caught us off, but other than that we shut down their offense pretty well.”
The game got off to a poor start for Harrison, as Burbridge fumbled on the game’s first play. Berkley was unable to take advantage of the mistake, as the Harrison defense forced the Bears to punt.
After a Tommy Vento interception gave Berkley the ball back, the Bears again struggled to move the ball, setting up a second punt.
This time Burbridge fielded the ball, made a few tacklers miss and took off down the right sideline for a touchdown.
The Bears answered back when Porter scored on a 27-yard screen pass from quarterback Jim Birnie with 54 seconds left in the half, tying the game at 7-7.
However, Jake Vento returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown to give Harrison a 14-7 lead heading into halftime.
“We worked on (special teams) the most during the week during practice,” Jake Vento said.”It gets annoying, but it just pays off.
“Our whole team worked hard – it’s not just me, it’s not just one person, it’s the whole team. Everybody does something for us.”
Porter scored on a two-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, leaving the Bears an extra point shy of tying the game. However, Harrison’s Lido Zefi blocked Berkley kicker Kyle Braun’s extra point attempt, preserving a 14-13 lead for the Hawks.
The Hawks put the game away in the fourth quarter following touchdown runs by running backs Lorenzo Collins and Austin Hunter.
The loss potentially marked the end of the coaching career of Berkley’s Jim MacDougall, who said he plans to retire. MacDougall has been coaching for 47 years, and has spent the past five years as Berkley’s coach.
MacDougall said he was proud of his team’s effort in the loss.
“I’m proud of the way the kids played,” MacDougall said. “I’ve been proud of them all year.
“We played a pretty good football team.”
Herrington said he and MacDougall have been good friends for a long time.
“He did a great job of preparing them, and I’m sure it’s emotional,” Herrington said. “When you give up something you’ve done your whole life, it’s just hard.
“He’s great with the kids, a lot more than wins and losses, everybody that plays for him loves him. He’ll be missed if he’s actually retiring.”