MILL HALL - Legendary Berwick coach George Curry is no stranger to wins in the PIAA playoffs.
The Bulldogs have six state titles and 430-plus wins under Curry's tutelage, and Friday's 44-7 win over Clearfield in Mill Hall just added to that total.
Berwick's Dain Kowalski returned an interception 76 yards on the last play of the first half to extend his team's 14-7 lead and the Bulldogs didn't look back in the second half. The Bison drove to the Berwick 1 on the opening series of the third quarter but lost a fumble, and the Bulldogs responded with a 12-play, 99-yard drive that essentially put the game away.
Clearfield turned the ball over three times in the contest with Berwick turning each one of them into a touchdown.
"That's the name of the game - you've got to create turnovers," said Curry. "It's not luck, you create them [by] either a good hit or a missed assignment. I'm proud of our kids. I was worried about [Clearfield].
"It was a momentum play. A punt return, a kick return, a long pass or a pick-6, they're all momentum plays. The other team's jaw drops and it's like getting sucker punched. We've been on the other end of that, and it's hard to rally from that."
The Bison set the tone early, forcing the Bulldogs to a three-and-out on the opening possession of the contest. Clearfield then intercepted Berwick QB C.J. Curry on the next series, as freshman Ryan Lezzer stepped in front of a receiver and returned the ball to the Bulldog 19.
Christian Lezzer capitalized on the turnover on a 4-yard run to give Clearfield a 7-0 lead with 3:39 left in the first quarter.
After that, however, it was Berwick that won the turnover battle.
The Bulldogs tied the game on the first of three Curry runs and intercepted Christian Lezzer on the ensuing possession.
Berwick converted the first of three Bison turnovers into the go-ahead score - a 2-yard run from Curry, who capped the scoring with a 70-yarder in the fourth.
"The turnovers hurt us," said Clearfield head coach Tim Janocko. "There's no question. It should have been a much closer game than what it was. In a big game like this, sometimes those things happen.
"Our kids played hard until the end, so I'm very proud of them. They deserve to be where they are at. They deserve to be here."
Curry also connected with Ian Mazonkey on a 38-yard scoring strike in the second half, while Kowalski added a touchdown of his own from 12 yards out for Berwick, which will face Archbishop Wood in next weekend's PIAA semifinal.
Kowalski and Curry each went over 100 yards on the night, as the Bulldogs outgained the Bison 434-289. Curry led all ballcarriers with 149 yards on 13 totes, while Kowalski had 21 rushes for 130 more yards.
"They were packing the box and we had the matchups that we wanted," said coach Curry, whose team improved to 14-0. "The game has changed. It's all wildcat, zone-reads, spreads and trying to get people in space.
"It changes the complexion of the game all the time, but look who all is still left - the teams that can run the ball. We've thrown the ball with a lot of success all year, but when you get down in the wind, snow or rain you have to be able to run the ball."
Clearfield, which had running back Tyler Stratton gain 101 yards on 17 rushes, ended the year with a 13-1 mark. The mark tied the school record, as the Bison were also 13-1 in 2010 with their only loss coming to eventual state champion Allentown Central Catholic.
Score By Quarters
Berwick0 21 16 7-44
Clearfield7 0 0 0-7
C-Lezzer 4 run, (Herrington kick), 3:30.
B-Curry 4 run, (Seely kick), 9:35.
B-Curry 2 run, (Seely kick), 5:07.
B-Kowalski 76 interception return, (Seely kick), :00.
B-Kowalski 12 run, (Stout run), 4:48.
B-Mazonkey 37 pass from Curry, (Stout run), 1:58.
B-Curry 70 run, (Seely kick), 5:30.
Rushing: Berwick-Curry 13-149, Kowalski 21-130, Stout 9-37, Trenholm 3-19, Maczuga 1-3. Clearfield-Stratton 17-101, C. Lezzer 15-62, Caldwell 8-35, Sellers 2-20, Ford 2-10.
Passing: Berwick-Curry 3-6-2-96, Clearfield-C. Lezzer 3-11-2-31; Sellers 1-3-30.
ReceivinG: Berwick-A. Force 1-48, Mazonkey 1-37, Wiegand 1-11. Clearfield-R. Lezzer 1-30, Flanagan 2-22, Ford 1-9.
Interceptions-(B) Kowalski 2; (C) R. Lezzer, Kovalick.
Total First Downs1918