Berkley’s defense leads the Bears past Lahser
By Jake Thielen
Berkley High School didn’t have a great night offensively, but a pair of key defensive plays propelled the Bears past Bloomfield Hills Lahser, 42-15, in an Oakland Activities Association Blue Division football matchup Friday night.
For most of the game, Berkley (3-2, 3-1 OAA Blue) trailed Lahser statistically by a wide margin, but the Bears made big plays when it counted most.
Berkley had two defensive touchdowns in the win, one of which came on a strange sequence immediately after Lahser had scored to make it 14-7 in the second quarter.
Berkley’s Jason Taylor fumbled on the Bears’ next possession after the touchdown, and the loose ball was recovered by the Knights. However, on the ensuing Lahser play, Knights’ quarterback Spencer McCourt was stripped of the ball while trying to scramble. Taylor picked up the ball at the Lahser 15-yard line, lost it as he tried to run and then fell on the loose ball in the end zone for a Berkley touchdown.
Berkley coach Jeff Burnside credited his defense with making big plays in key situations.
“A lot of times we make that ball bounce in our direction,” Burnside said. “When that ball’s on the ground we’re going after it and when it’s in the air we’re going after it. We try to create our own bounces, and the kids are doing a good job of buying into that right now.”
Lahser (3-2, 3-2 OAA Blue) trailed 21-7 at halftime, but after a Berkley three-and-out to begin the second half the Knights appeared ready to regain the momentum. However, Berkley’s Damon Eldridge made his first of two interceptions on the night and returned it 21 yards for a score to put the Bears up 28-7.
Burnside said the interception was the result of a great play by Eldridge and a last-second coverage change by the Bears’ secondary coach.
“We had a stagnant offensive set there, but had a great punt and pinned them deep,” Burnside said. “(Eldridge) sat out in the flat, the ball came right where we thought it was going to be, and he made a great break on it. He played the coverage perfectly and got the job done.”
Nick Dimaggio brought Lahser within two scores with 34-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but that was as close as the Knights would get.
Berkley’s Omar Sitto put the game away for the Bears with a pair of touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, including a 95-yard score with just 1:53 remaining. Sitto finished the game with 10 carries for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Berkley quarterback Kyle Macey accounted for the team’s other two scores, the first of which was a 31-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper. Less than two minutes later, Macey had a passed tipped by a Lahser defender that landed right in the hands of the Bears’ Eric Hudson, who raced into the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown.
Lahser had a solid game offensively with 364 yards of total offense, led by running back Dajuan Burnley’s 150 yards on 29 carries. However, turnovers and penalties kept the Knights from converting those yards into points.
Lahser coach Dan Loria said the team will concentrate on improving fundamentally this week in practice.
“We didn’t play our style of football,” Loria said. “We have to get better and we will get better. If we don’t score, stats don’t mean anything.”
Loria said the team will need to focus on eliminating its mistakes if it hopes to get back on track. The Knights have now lost two straight after starting the season 3-0.
“At times we execute, but we shoot ourselves in the foot,” Loria said. “We’re not a team right now that can overcome mistakes like that. Maybe down the road we will be, but right now we’re not.”
Berkley will look to improve to 4-1 in the OAA Blue when it travels to North Farmington for a Saturday afternoon game on Oct. 1, while Lahser will host a non-league contest with Warren Fitzgerald on Sept. 30.