EF's second half too much for BVA
Elizabeth Forward found itself trailing Belle Vernon Area very early and was still down at halftime, yet the Warriors managed to come back for a 35-13 Big Nine Conference victory, thanks to a couple of big-time playmakers.
Matt Bernadowski returned the second-half kickoff 82 yards for one if his four touchdowns, igniting a 28-point third-quarter scoring spree that carried Elizabeth Forward (3-1, 3-1) to its third home victory without a loss this season.
Bernadowski also scored on a 45-yard punt return in the first half, cutting the BVA lead to 13-7, and added two other third-quarter TDs on a 41-yard run and a 10-yard pass from quarterback JaQuaun Davidson, who rushed for 144 yards, including a 67-yard scoring run that sealed the outcome late in the third.
“We have too many weapons, too many playmakers to be (nearly) shutout in the first half,” EF coach Mike LeDonne said. “Give Belle Vernon credit. They got on us early. We made way too many mental mistakes in the first half. But we proved ourselves in the second half.”
BVA (1-3, 1-3), which lost its third game in a row, was playing without injured quarterback Travis Snyder and running back Anthony Levis, both of whom are out for the season.
The Leps scored all their points in the first quarter.
Derek Verkleeren gave BVA a 7-0 lead with an 85-yard return of the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Freshman quarterback Mike Fine, making his first career start, then scored on a 1-yard run to increase the lead to 13-0.
Fine finished the game 12 of 21 for 120 yards and one interceptions, but the BVA offense sputtered for much of the way.
“Mike has a bright future, but he's got to grow up quickly for us,” Lep coach Aaron Krepps said.
The tandem of Davidson and Bernadowski was electrifying, particularly in the second half, but LeDonne was careful to spread the compliments around.
“Those guys are good, no question, but I'll talk about the whole team,” he said. “That is what we have been preaching since training camp. We want everyone involved. We want everyone focused. We can be a very, very good team if we can get that aspect of our team straightened out. We're more than just two players.”
It was hard not to think otherwise, though, after the second-half performance that the two EF senior stars put on.
Davidson had several long passes nullified by penalties and his apparent touchdown pass on the final play of the first half was dropped in the end zone by Walter Meyers.
But Davidson and Bernadowski helped to engineer enough successful plays to go around -- particularly in the third quarter, when EF took charge of the game -- that it would be hard not to credit them for much of the Warriors' success.
“This is the third week in a row that we've collapsed in the second half,” Krepps said. “We lose focus and shut down. But you can't deny that those two guys are tough to stop.”
Bernadowski's second-quarter punt return came after he fielded the ball near midfield and avoided a number of tackles before reaching the end zone.
He got loose down the left sideline for his kickoff return to open the second half to give EF the lead for good, 14-13, and the Warriors gained momentum when Davidson found Bernadowski minutes later on the 10-yard scoring strike to make it 21-13.
Davidson was just 3-for-7 passing for 33 yards, with all the completions going to Bernadowski, who raced nearly untouched into the end zone on his 41-yard scoring run on the next possession to give the Warriors a 28-13 advantage.
When Davidson sprinted 67 yards for another score, it was as though he was telling Bernadowski not to claim all the credit.
“JaQuaun is starting to take charge more and more,” LeDonne said. “We can be a very dangerous team when he plays with an edge. We were tonight in the second half.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.