FOOTBALL: Berkley shuts out Ferndale
Special to The Oakland Press
Sitto’s 3-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left in the first quarter provided the only points the Bears would need, as the Berkley defense kept Ferndale off the scoreboard despite allowing over 200 yards rushing to the Eagles.
The win was the first career win for Berkley’s Jeff Burnside, who was hired as head coach in the offseason after spending 10 years as an assistant at Novi High School. Burnside replaced Jim MacDougall, who retired after coaching for more than 40 seasons, including five at Berkley.
Burnside said he was pleased to get his first win, but he stressed that his work was far from over.
“It’s nice to get that first win, but it’s still one win; that’s all it is,” Burnside said. “We have a lot of bigger goals that we want (to reach).”
This season, Berkley will be looking to return to the playoffs for the third consecutive year. To do that, the Bears will have to find a way to replace all-state running back/linebacker Terrell Porter, who graduated in the spring.
Burnside said he believes his returning players can rise to the challenge.
“Terrell Porter is exceptional and we can’t replace him with just one guy,” Burnside said. “We have three or four guys that can run the ball and we have a good rotation in the slot.”
One of those players is Sitto, who lead the team with 62 yards on 14 carries and scored Berkley’s lone touchdown Friday night.
“What I love about Omar is he plays with a lot of passion,” Burnside said. “He has to keep it under control sometimes, but when he channels it properly he’s very good. He’s a guy that we’re going to depend on as an emotional leader.”
Burnside said despite the win, Berkley still has to work to shore up its mistakes before the team’s next game Sept. 1 at Flushing. He was particularly concerned with penalties, as the Bears were flagged 12 times for 87 yards.
“I haven’t slept all week, and I’m not going to get any sleep tonight, even though win won the game and everything should be euphoric,” Burnside said. “We have to get (the penalties) fixed. We’re not an offense at this time that can go and make a 1st-and-20.”
For Ferndale, the game was about missed opportunities. The Eagles outgained the Bears on the ground, 214-141 but the passing game struggled after top receiver Brandon White was forced to leave the game temporarily with an injury.
Ferndale had two drives of more than 60 yards, but it couldn’t find the end zone. The Eagles were stopped on a fourth-and-goal attempt with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and missed a field goal on their opening drive of the game.
Despite the loss, Ferndale coach Ryan Dunlap was pleased with the potential that his running backs showed.
“Our running backs are good players and they’re both really good athletes,” Dunlap said. “Earl (Tilford)’s a small guy by numbers but he’s got a big heart and he runs hard every single time. Shaquann (McGriff) gives us a bigger back, but he’s still young.”
Dunlap said he and his team will work on fixing their mistakes during practice this week, in preparation for their next game Sept. 2 at home against Bloomfield Hills Lahser.
“We definitely have to pick our intensity up, our blocking has to improve and our routes have to improve,” Dunlap said. “We can’t be one dimensional and just expect to run the ball every single time.”