Berlin rallies in second half to top Portage
BERLIN — After suffering its first loss last week, Berlin had just 78 yards of offense and little to no answers defensively in a first half that was dominated by Portage.
In danger of dropping a second consecutive game, the Mountaineers flipped the script and exploded for 29 points, crawling out of a 16-0 deficit in the process to come from behind and beat the previously unbeaten Mustangs 29-22 on Friday night.
“We’ve been here this year in this situation,” said Berlin coach Doug Paul about his team having to bounce back in the second half. We thought we made some good adjustments at halftime. Our kids didn’t panic. … They battled. I told them at halftime, give me 24 minutes of everything you have, and we’ll be proud no matter what happens.”
Play of the game: With the game tied at 22-all and under 3:30 to play, Berlin quarterback Pace Prosser put his head down, ran through two tackles and powered his way right up the middle for a 13-yard TD burst that held up as the game winner.
Player of the game: Prosser made play after play in the second half with his legs to keep the Berlin offense on schedule. He rushed 16 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns, including a 53-yard score to cut Portage’s lead to 8, 22-14, late in the third quarter. After a forgetful first half where he was just 3 of 16 for 25 yards, he finished 8 of 22 for 126 yards and a TD.
And to top it all off, Prosser picked off Portage quarterback Andrew Miko on a last gasp heave to the end zone with only 38 seconds left to seal the victory.
“I’m hard on him, and he just sits and soaks it all in,” said Paul of Prosser. “He’s such a competitor. … He was almost a man amongst boys in the second half, and played a great game. Only a sophomore, the sky’s the limit for him, and he just keeps getting better and better.”
Unsung hero: Athlete Ryan Blubaugh did not fill up the stat sheet like he has in previous weeks. However, the junior did put the Mountaineers on the board with a 7-yard TD on a misdirection run midway through the third quarter. He also passed for and ran in two, two-point conversions that were crucial in Berlin’s comeback.
Berlin senior Carson Modrak caught four passes for 37 yards and snared a two-point conversion catch.
Junior Holby McClucas reeled in a 53-yard TD pass from Prosser at the start of the fourth quarter, which helped the Mountaineers draw even at 22-all.
Vital stat of the game: Berlin held Portage to just one offensive TD in the second half. Meanwhile, it took the Berlin offense only 7:46 of game time to score three touchdowns and tie the game at 22. Portage’s Kaden Claar was dynamic all evening. As a receiver, he caught six passes for 101 yards and a TD. Miko, who finished 8 of 14 for 116 yards and a TD, delivered a perfectly thrown ball, hitting Claar in stride for a 69-yard TD which gave Portage a 22-8 lead at that point.
But it was not enough to hold off the Mountaineers, who gashed the Mustangs on the ground in the second half.
“Those are things that as a coach, I have to have our guys better prepared,” said Portage coach Marty Slanoc about the defensive struggles in the second half. “I have to have them ready to adjust to that and be able to do it on the fly. I’m going to learn from this, and we’re going to learn from this as a team. And we’ll just continue to improve.”
Noteworthy: Berlin has now defeated Portage three years in a row… Portage racked up five penalties for 35 yards, including committing a game-ending offsides penalty on a third-down-and-3 when it had a chance to get the ball back with under 25 seconds to play… Claar rushed six times for 64 yards. He also had an electric 85-yard kick return for a touchdown to open the second half. It gave Portage a very brief 16-0 advantage.
Records: Berlin (7-1); Portage (6-1).
Next week: Berlin hosts Southern Huntingdon County next Friday. Portage entertains unbeaten rival Windber.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Portage 9 0 13 0–22
Berlin 0 0 14 15–29
P–Tubbs 38 field goal, 5:43
P–Miko 1 run (kick failed), 0:12
P–Claar 85 kick return (Tubbs kick), 11:47
B–Blubaugh 7 run (Modrak pass from Blubaugh), 6:18
P–Claar 69 pass from Miko (kick failed), 5:11
B–Prosser 53 run (run failed), 3:24
B–McClucas 53 pass from Prosser (Blubaugh run), 10:32
B–Prosser 13 run (Connor Montgomery kick), 3:22
TEAM STATISTICS P B
First downs 20 22
Total yards 320 336
Rushes-yards 37-204 39-210
Passing yards 116 126
Comp-att-int 8-14-1 8-22-1
Punts-avg. 2-37 4-28.5
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-35 3-45
RUSHING–Portage, Heidler 14-60, Wolford 9-32, Claar 6-64, Miko 8-48. Berlin, Blubaugh 9-45, Hay 5-8, Carson Harding 3-(-1), Modrak 1-2, Ream 5-13, Prosser 16-154.
PASSING–Portage, Miko 8-14-1-1. Berlin, Prosser, 8-22-1-1.
RECEIVING–Portage, Claar 6-101, Gouse 1-10, Heidler 1-5. Berlin, Blubaugh 2-30, Harding 1-6, Modrak 4-37, McClucas 1-53.