Berwick Bulldogs at Pittston
YATESVILLE – Berwick waited seven weeks to have Jared Marshman at quarterback.
The Bulldogs could wait six possessions for him to get the offense clicking.
Marshman threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in his season debut Friday night and Berwick rolled over host Pittston Area, 36-0, in a Wyoming Valley Conference Class 4A Division game.
With the Bulldogs defense again turning in a dominant performance, there was no reason to panic when Berwick went five possessions without scoring.
Marshman and Berwick soon made up for lost time.
The Bulldogs produced touchdowns on five straight possessions, packing all the game’s scoring into a stretch of 13:13 from the middle of the second quarter to the middle of the third.
“We started a little slow in the first quarter, didn’t score, but after we got that first one in, we were good,” Marshman said. “I think we’ll be good from here.”
It was clear Marshman was anxious to be back on the field with his team.
Eye black was not needed for the night game, but underneath his right eye, Marshman instead wore a sticker with 7/14/17, a reminder of the date when he broke his ankle, putting his senior season in jeopardy.
“It started last week after the Coughlin win, he said in the locker room, ‘hey coach, it’s game week’,” Berwick coach Frank Sheptock said.
From his mannerisms on the field in practice to the way he packed his equipment bag, Sheptock could see Marshman was ready to get started.
“It was just neat to see the excitement and the enthusiasm that he was going to get back on the field,” Sheptock said.
The WVC’s stingiest defense and the play of sophomore quarterback Alex Force helped Berwick get through Marshman’s absence with a 5-1 record.
“I think number-one he felt great about coming back to the team because the team played very well,” Sheptock said. ““We’re in a good position and then you add him and he might be one of the better players in the Wyoming Valley Conference, a returning quarterback who threw for 1,500 yards and ran for 500 last year. It’s a big boost to our offense.”
Marshman hit his first 5 passes for 46 yards, then started working his way down the field.
“After I threw my first pass, the nerves were gone and I was ready to go,” said Marshman, who finished 12-for-19 for 175 yards.
After Pittston Area made fourth-down stops at its 1 and 28 in the first quarter, Marshman’s first breakthrough came on the ground.
Marshman scored on a 1-yard sneak with 5:49 left in the first quarter. The touchdown came on a 37-yard drive that was set up by a short Pittston Area punt and included a 23-yard pass from Marshman to Teagan Wilk.
The Bulldogs, who did not allow Pittston Area to cross midfield until the game was being played under the Mercy Rule in the fourth quarter, pinned the Patriots again and forced another short punt.
Evan Klinger carried 6 times for 42 yards on an 8-play, 48-yard scoring drive that he completed on a 1-yard run.
“We were behind on field position the whole first half,” Pittston Area coach Nick Barbieri said.
Ryan Laubach made sure the trend continued.
Laubach, who also had 2 tackles for 11 yards in losses and 3 other tackles, intercepted a pass and returned it 18 yards to the Pittston Area 28.
“Ryan Laubach was all over the field,” Sheptock said.
Marshman scrambled for 8 yards on the first play, then had all the time he needed to eventually find Justin Robbins for a 20-yard touchdown pass. The score with 40.8 seconds left in the second quarter gave the Bulldogs a 21-0 halftime lead.
The defense forced consecutive three-and-outs to start the second half and the Berwick offense made it pay off with a quick strike and the longest scoring drive of the game.
Marshman found Damon Beckhorn for both touchdowns.
Beckhorn got open deep off play action on Berwick’s first offensive play of the second half for a 52-yard touchdown. Klinger took off with a bad snap and turned it into a two-point conversion for a 29-0 lead.
The Bulldogs went 62 yards in 9 plays, highlighted by consecutive Owen Shoemaker runs that covered 32 yards.
Marshman floated a pass down the left sideline to Beckhorn for the 16-yard score on third-and-15, sending the game into the Mercy Rule with 4:46 left in the third quarter.
Beckhorn was also part of the defensive effort for Berwick, which has 2 shutouts and has allowed just 54 points in 7 games. He disrupted one of District 2’s most effective passing attacks by coming up with a sack, a batted down pass and broke up another.
“Damon Beckhorn is a tremendous blitzer,” Sheptock said. “Everybody talks about him on offense, but defensively, he’s having a heckuva season with sacks and pressures and getting the offense out of rhythm.”
A week after it piled up 561 yards and 51 points at Abington Heights, Pittston Area managed just 4 first downs and 72 yards.
“One of the things the defense is really doing well is we’re taking away what the other team does well,” Sheptock said.
After throwing for 380 yards and 3 touchdowns in that game and more than 200 per game on the season, Coles was limited to 8-for-20 passing for 45 yards.
“Defensively, they’re a great team,” Barbieri said. “If we wanted to do anything, we had to establish the run to keep their pressure off Walter and we weren’t able to do that.”
Klinger carried 15 times for 102 yards to help Berwick add 200 yards rushing to Marshman’s 175 passing. Shoemaker had 71 yards on 12 carries.
Beckhorn caught 4 passes for 83 yards while Wilk had 4 for 46 yards.
Marshman’s return makes a team that was already the fourth-ranked Big School in the NPF Football Super Six even more dangerous.
“The thing I’m excited about the most is that you’ll see him grow over the next 3-4 weeks and that gives this offense a lot of potential,” Sheptock said.
Berwick (6-1) plays its Homecoming game Friday night against Wyoming Valley West (2-5).
Pittston Area is also home Friday against Nanticoke in a meeting of 3-4 teams.