BERLIN- The Berlin Dolphins cadet football team outlasted the visiting Salisbury Tarheels last Saturday, 13-12, in torrential downpours to inch closer to a playoff berth in Salvation Army Youth Football League action.
The Berlin Dolphins cadet team (ages 7-10) and the Salisbury Tarheels faced off in an important game at Buckingham Elementary last Saturday in front of a big home crowd despite the rainy conditions and muddy field. Berlin, with a record of 5-2, and Salisbury at 4-3, are each vying for a playoff berth as the regular season winds down.
Both teams had early opportunities but neither could score until Berlin went on a long, methodical drive with a mixture of runs and passes resulting in a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The score remained 7-0 in favor of the Dolphins until late in the first half when the Tarheels scored a touchdown with 35 seconds left. The extra point failed, however, and Berlin took a 7-6 lead into the half.
Conditions continued to deteriorate in the second half as the rain poured down and each team committed several turnovers. With 5:12 left in the game, Salisbury scored a touchdown on a big play to take the lead, but the Berlin defense stopped the extra point and the Tarheels led 12-7 with time running out.
Berlin started on its own 20-yard-line after the ensuing kickoff and pounded the ball up the middle to reach the Salisbury 29-yard-line. With 2:12 remaining in the game, Berlin quarterback Gus Esham kept the ball on a naked bootleg and scampered 29 yards for the go-ahead score. The extra point failed and Berlin led 13-12 with time running out.
There was no quit in Salisbury, however. The Tarheels nearly returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown before Berlin’s Matthew LeCompte made a great tackle at the 45-yard-line. Salisbury then broke another big run that appeared to be heading to the end zone, but Berlin defensive end Noah Metzger made a game saving tackle at the 16-yard line. Salisbury advanced the ball to eight yard line but ran out of time and Berlin prevailed 13-12.
Berlin Head Coach Ron Bireley called the contest one of the greatest games he had ever been involved in during his 30 years of coaching youth football. “Both teams gave it their all and left it out on the field,” he said. “That has been the character of this team all year- to never give up.”
The win moved Berlin closer to a playoff spot in the Salvation Army league, but the team won’t learn its post-season fate until the final regular season games are completed this weekend. Meanwhile, the Berlin Dolphins Junior Division team (ages 11-15) fell to Snow Hill in another great game last weekend. The Eagles led 6-0 at the half and broke the game open with three big plays in the second half to beat Berlin 26-0.