Mike Marabell and his Tunkhannock staff didn’t try overcoaching or overscheming their Tigers before Friday’s playoff game at Berwick.
“There was no pressure on us. Nobody expected us to do anything,” Marabell said. “They just flew around and played backyard football. We threw everything at ‘em, we had fun all week, and we just let them play football.”
That approach paid off to a degree, but not quite in the form of an upset victory.
The sixth-seeded and mighty underdog Tigers had an early lead and a late chance to win before ultimately being eliminated by No. 3 Berwick, 21-9, in the District 2 Class 4A quarterfinals.
“It would have been easy to just walk in here and be happy that we made the playoffs,” Marabell said. “They weren’t happy with just being in the playoffs. They know we should have been a higher seed, we let some teams beat us that shouldn’t have beaten us.
“Unfortunately, our starting quarterback (Jack Chilson) went down in the beginning of the second quarter, so his freshman brother (Ben) came in for a crazy situation against a great defense. But, I couldn’t be prouder of the young men that we have.”
Berwick senior defensive back Teagan Wilk, an East Carolina commit, sealed the win midway through the fourth quarter.
Berwick led 15-9 at the time, but Tunkhannock (5-6) had the ball and just enough time on the clock that it could have pulled off a huge upset with a perfect drive.
Wilk made sure that didn’t happen when he intercepted Ben Chilson’s pass and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown and a 21-9 lead.
“After what we had been through this whole entire game, it was kind of a rough battle for us,” Wilk said. “A play like that, just to pick us up, probably meant a lot for the team.”
Wilk described his Bulldogs (9-2) as playing “flat,” something that will need to be corrected for next Friday’s semifinal at No. 2 Valley View.
Berwick’s sluggish start included three lost fumbles in the first quarter and a 6-0 deficit after 42- and 20-yard field goals by Tunkhannock senior Jaxson Montross.
However, Tunkhannock’s lead could have been bigger, if not for several dropped passes, as well as Berwick’s defense living up to its billing
as one of the best in District 2.
“They are big, fast, physical,” Marabell said. “They are the best defense we’ve played all year.”
So while Berwick didn’t play a clean, nor particularly flashy first half, it did go into halftime with a 15-6 lead after Eric Montes and Ryan Laubach touchdown runs and a safety by its defense.
Montross nailed his longest field goal of the game, 47 yards, in the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game. However, Berwick put it away on Wilk’s pick-six.
Tunkhannock’s offense had few highlights, producing 9 yards on 17 carries and 92 yards on 34 pass attempts.
Jake Frisco, Garrett Yuhas, Ryan Simmons and Nathan Lord had interceptions for the Tigers’ defense.
Berwick’s Alejandro Lopez rushed for 117 yards on 16 carries. Aiden Mason added 35 yards on five attempts.
Wilk added 114 yards from scrimmage (82 rushing, 32 receiving).
Tunkhannock 6 0 0 3 9
Berwick 0 15 0 6 21
TA- Montross 42 field goal, 10:15
TA - Montross 20 field goal, 1:04
BA - Montes 1 run (Hinkle kick), 9:00
BA - Safety, 7:04 Ber - R. Laubach 15 run (pass failed), 6:10
TA - Montross 47 field goal, 11:40
BA - Wilk 21 INT return (run failed), 6:35
First Downs 8 16
Rush-Att-Yards 17-9 46-301
Comp-Att-Int 12-34-1 8-18-4
Passing Yards 92 60
Total Yards 101 361
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 4-3
Penalties-Yards 8-52 10-92
Rushing: TA- B. Chilson 4-26; T. Konen 3-2; J. Frisco 1-(-4); J. Chilson 2-(-7); G. D’Amato 7-(-8). BA A. Lopez 16-117; T. Wilk 9-82; R. Laubach 14-60, 1 TD; A. Mason 5-35; B. Maurer 1-6; E. Montes 1-1, 1 TD; Team - 0-0.
Passing: TA- J. Chilson 8-22-0, 65; B. Chilson 4-12-1, 27. BA- R. Laubach 8-18- 4, 60.
Receiving: TA- J. Frisco 5-33; M. Prebola 3-25; G. D’Amato 2-4; J. Zacharias 2-30. BA- T. Wilk 5-32; A. Mason 2-17; B. Cleaver 1-11.
Interceptions: TA- N. Lord 1, R. Simmons 1, G. Yuhas 1. BA- T. Wilk 1.