Berlin coach full of praise for Hauck, Lions

When Berlin Brothersvalley football coach Doug Paul talks, people listen, because he’s put together a record over the last decade that has made people take notice.

And Paul has taken notice of Chestnut Ridge quarterback Logan Hauck, and he has a lot to say about the Lion signal-caller.

“I fully believe he’s probably the best quarterback in this area,” Paul said of Hauck. “There’s probably some better passers. There’s probably some better runners. But, when you put it all together with his leadership, he’s a special football player.

“I’ve seen a lot of football players, and he’s right up there at the top.”

Hauck is hoping to live up to Paul’s billing on Friday night, when he and the Lions face off with Berlin to try to repeat as District 5-8 Class 2A champions. The game will kick off at Windber Stadium at 7 p.m.

Chestnut Ridge is the top seed, checking in with a 9-1 record after a bye last week. Berlin is 10-1 following a semifinal victory against Westinghouse, and the Mountaineers only setback came at the hands of undefeated Ligonier Valley two weeks ago.

With most of its players returning from last year, Ridge had the makings of a monster offense coming into the season, and the Lions have lived up to that. They enter the playoffs having scored 40 points in seven consecutive contests and are third in the Mirror coverage area scoring at a 42.8-per-game clip.

Perhaps not the most ideal time to have a week off when you’re on that kind of a roll.

“We always try to look at the positives. We looked at it as kind of a time to recharge our batteries and get ready for the second season,” Chestnut Ridge coach Max Shoemaker said after a laugh.

Shoemaker said he gave the players a couple of days off during the bye week, but the Lions haven’t given opposing defenses much of a break all year. Ridge is averaging 386.5 yards per game this season.

A big part of the equation is Hauck. The Mirror’s 2016 first-team all-area quarterback, Hauck has completed 110 of 161 passes this season for 1,537 yards and 15 touchdowns. He needs just 22 yards to achieve the 1,000-yard mark on the ground, too — he’s run for 100 yards in five games this season and thrown for 200 twice, including a season-best 316 vs. Tyrone in the final game of the regular season.

What makes the Lions really dangerous, though, is this is far from a one-man attack. Hauck’s versatility just amplifies the qualities of Ridge’s other weapons.

One of the area’s best linebackers and a state-qualifying jumper in track, Noah Dillow is averaging 7.9 yards per carry. A University of Virginia wrestling recruit, Justin McCoy is one of the best receivers in the area this year with 35 catches, while Jared McGill and Levi Snyder both have more than 20, too.

The Lions have such a wealth of offensive riches that they haven’t even had to fully utilize 2016 all-star and Division I baseball recruit Phillip Dull, who has missed games with injuries and diamond commitments.

“We knew that we were blessed to have a solid core of good, athletic kids,” Shoemaker said. “They compete in multiple sports, and, for some of them, football is not number one, but, the senior class, with their leadership and camaraderie, I think kind of agreed to support each other. They work well together. I think the thing that separates them from a lot of groups is that they’re unselfish.”

While the Lions are marked by their athleticism, consistency and big-play ability, their opponent on Friday is much more difficult to typecast. Often known for either a smother defense or a terrific running game — or both — in past years, Berlin this season just seems to be a chameleon that colors itself however necessary to produce wins.

The Mountaineers come into this game without a 1,000-yard passer, and quarterback Luke Brick has thrown for 1,114 yards. However, they’ve won shootouts like the 30-26 victory over Portage, and they’ve triumphed in low-scoring affairs, like a 7-0 decision over explosive Ferndale.

Berlin just seems to morph into what it needs to be in a given night.

“I would use the word ‘gritty.’ They’re tough, athletic kids,” Shoemaker said of the Mountaineers.

Despite heavy graduation at the skill positions, Paul still found a way to take the personnel he had and go undefeated in the WestPAC.

“I think our offseason work ethic got us back to where we are right now,” Paul said. “We knew the line was going to be a strength for us. We also tweaked the offense a little bit from what we’ve done in the past. We’ve got some run-pass options.”

“They try to get you outmanned at the point of attack,” Shoemaker said. “Our kids have to be alert and able to adjust.”