BERWICK – Berwick did not need any dramatic comebacks this time around.
Evan Klinger made sure of that.
Klinger excelled on special teams, ignited the offense as the game’s leading rusher and even made a sack on defense. He did everything he could to get the Bulldogs past Wyoming Area in the playoff opener, except get in the end zone.
That hardly mattered to Klinger, or the Bulldogs.
Klinger’s 206 all-purpose yards did more than enough to set up Berwick for five offensive touchdowns Friday as the Bulldogs blasted the visiting Warriors, 42-0, in a District 2 Class 4A quarterfinal at Crispin Field.
Teagan Wilk, whose punt return touchdown started Berwick’s comeback from a 14-3 deficit in the last six minutes of the regular-season win at Wyoming Area, again produced a big play with a 97-yard interception return to reach the Mercy Rule at 35-0 with 5:51 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs are home again for next week’s semifinal, which is a rematch of last season’s championship game that Berwick lost at North Pocono, 21-6.
“We got one-third of the way there,” said Klinger, noting it will take three victories to win a District 2 title that has eluded Berwick with championship-game defeats during each of his past three seasons. “Two-thirds left.”
Klinger went left, right and straight through defenders as he ensured the 9-2 and top-seeded Bulldogs of a spot in the semifinals.
Klinger was hard to contain, starting with the first time he touched the ball — on a punt which he promptly returned 25 yards. The hard-nosed senior finished with five punt returns for 83 yards, finished as the game’s leading rusher with 98 yards on nine carries and took a short pass for a 25-yard pickup.
“He’s the most unselfish team player,” Berwick coach Frank Sheptock said. “He’s what this program is all about. He does so many things for us. He’s our leading tackler, our leading rusher — what a great football player. He saw him up his game today, too.
“He’s a young man who’s on a mission.”
Klinger brought back his second punt return for 14 yards and, two plays later, ran nine yards, helping to lead to Damon Beckhorn’s 26-yard touchdown run for the game’s first points. Klinger then opened the second quarter with two runs totaling 17 yards, setting up Owen Shoemaker’s 2-yard touchdown dive for a 14-0 Berwick lead.
Playing defense during Wyoming Area’s next series, a blitzing Klinger came from his linebacker spot and recorded one of Berwick’s three sacks. Then, he opened Berwick’s final scoring drive of the first half with a 28-yard burst, leading to Jared Marshman’s seven-yard scoring strike to Joe Norce for a 21-0 halftime lead.
Klinger didn’t stop there. He came out of halftime with two runs covering 32 yards, opening things up for Marshman to hit Alex Parks with a 24-yard scoring strike to cap Berwick’s three-play, 56-yard drive with a touchdown for a 28-0 lead.
“The thing I love about him,” Sheptock said, “as a punt returner, he gets the ball and he’s vertical. It’s challenging, because you have to be willing to do that. He has no fear of running the football, and he does that as a running back, too.”
Then Wilk ran one back, pretty much sealing Wyoming Area’s fate.
The Warriors, trying desperately to get back in the game, took off on a 56-yard drive that reached Berwick’s 6-yard line midway through the third quarter.
But Wilk jumped a quick pass, intercepted it at the 3-yard line, then zipped 97 yards to the other end zone as Berwick ended the suspense by boosting its lead to 35-0.
It was the second time Wyoming Area got close to the end zone, only to have Berwick bite down on protecting the shutout.
On the final play of the first half, the Warriors tried a similarly quick pass from Berwick’s 9-yard line, but Joey Lynn picked off the pass at the 1-yard line to end the threat.
“We just went back to playing Berwick football,” Klinger said. “Back to the way we know how to play.”