WEST PITTSTON — Marred by penalties, errant shotgun snaps and overall ineffectiveness, Berwick needed a jolt Friday night.
A sophomore whose made some big plays so far this season provided it.
Teagan Wilk returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown, triggering a fourth-quarter rally as the Dawgs escaped with a 17-14 victory at Wyoming Area in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 4A game.
Berwick improved to 3-0, while Wyoming Area suffered its second consecutive three-point loss to fall to 1-2.
Berwick trailed 14-3 midway through the fourth quarter when Wilk fielded a punt on the left sideline and weaved his way for a touchdown.
“I don’t know if you saw the punt before that,” Wilk said, “but I almost took that one to the house. So we had a little conversation after that and I say, ‘Yo, you give me one more block and I’m taking it to the house.’”
Wilk also leads the team in interceptions with two.
“Teagan’s return, holy cow, talk about the ignition to start the comeback,” Berwick coach Frank Sheptock said. “We needed it because offensively we’re struggling. Teagan has made big plays for us in each game thus far to turn the momentum. There was none bigger than today.”
Prior to Wilk’s score, two of Berwick’s three possessions had bad shotgun snaps, including one where Wyoming Area defensive lineman Damon Barhight recovered at the Berwick 15-yard line. Four plays after Barhight’s recovery, one of three fumbles he pounced on, receiver Marc Minichello threw a halfback option pass to quarterback Dominic DeLuca for an 8-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion gave the Warriors a 14-3 lead with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Wyoming Area went three-and-out on its next possession after Wilk’s touchdown. Two plays later, Berwick was on top. Damon Beckhorn darted 44 yards up the middle on a direct snap and then scored from eight yards out as the Dawgs took a 17-14 lead with 3:02 to play.
Wyoming Area got one more crack on offense and moved from its 20-yard line to the 27 where DeLuca had to scramble on fourth down and was stopped for no gain.
“The game is 48 minutes not 42 minutes,” Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said. “Our kids played well all game. You get a good punt you have to make the play. We were covering kicks all game. You get a good punt, make the play and finish the game.”
The Warriors scored early in the second quarter. A punt skimmed off a Berwick player and Wyoming Area’s Jesse Cegelka won the dog fight for the ball at the Berwick 22. A DeLuca-to-Minichello connection put the ball at the 1, and three plays later running back Justin Joseph banged his way into the end zone.
Berwick answered with a nine-play drive — slowed by two of the Dawgs’ 11 penalties — and got on the board when Ken Marshman connected on a 32-yard field goal.
“We showed a lot of composure,” Sheptock said. “Just bang away a little bit, bang away a little bit. To be able to overcome all of that and beat a quality team like Wyoming Area really speaks volumes of the character of this football team.”
NOTE: Wyoming Area held a moment of silence before the game in honor of Stephen Chipolis, a member of the district’s support staff who died on Monday.
Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar