Everyone loves a second chance. A second chance at a job interview, a second opportunity to take a test, another shot at introducing yourself to that beautiful someone… who doesn’t like second chances? On Thursday night, the Berkeley High defense forced five turnovers to give its offense not just two but five chances to move the football. But the Berkeley Yellowjackets (0-4) failed to capitalize and the Livermore Cowboys (3-1) left nothing to chance with a 15-0 victory.
Livermore turned to a devastating ground game that featured nine different players rushing for yardage. The Cowboys collected 227 yards on ground, as junior Etim Hedman shouldered the load with a team-high 18 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown. Junior John Morehouse broke off a 58-yard run on his first carry of the night and led all players with 103 rushing yards.
The Cowboys were so effective with their ground game that they literally ignored their passing attack. Quarterbacks Brian Rocha and Andy Riele attempted just two passes between them and Rocha was sacked two times for 21 yards. One of those sacks was the result of Berkeley High senior linebacker Emanuel Golzales’ stellar play. Golzales’ sack of Rocha came with 20.9 seconds left in the first half and forced a fumble recovered by the ‘Jackets.
Livermore looked solid in its first offensive possession, marching 80 yards downfield for an eventual four-yard touchdown run by senior running back Nik McElley. In the second quarter, Berkeley quarterback Nitoto Muhammed slipped down inside his own endzone for a Cowboy safety.
Up 9-0 with more than two quarters to play, all signs pointed to an easy Livermore victory. But Berkeley’s defense clamped down on Livermore’s offense for the rest of the game, and the Cowboy offense didn’t score again until late in the fourth quarter.
In fact, while Berkeley’s defense continually forced turnovers, their offense was all too willing to give the ball back. The Yellowjacket defense forced five Cowboy turnovers on the night — four through fumbles and one by turnover on downs — but the ‘Jackets gave the ball right back four of the five times they gained possession of the football.
Berkeley’s last turnover, a fumble recovered by Livermore’s Issac Jenkins near the end of the game, gave the Cowboys possession at Berkeley’s three-yard line. Hedman headed in for a touchdown on the next play, sealing the win for Livermore and sending Berkeley home still in search of its first victory this season.
Unlike its defense, Berkeley’s offense clearly needs some fine tuning. The Yellowjackets tallied just 139 rushing yards, marking the first time this season Berkeley did not roll up 200 or more yards on the ground. and Muhammed completed only two of his 12 attempts for 46 yards and two interceptions.
Ironically, it was Berkeley’s quarterback and top wide receiver that contributed the biggest rushing plays. Franklin ran reverses for 47 yards on three carries while Muhammed finished with 26 rushing yards, the second highest total on the team. The duo combined for 83 yards on 13 carries, a 6.3 average yard per rush that doubled the 3.1 average yard per rush gained by Berkeley’s running backs on 20 attempts.
The Yellowjackets open up league play at home on Friday at 7:30 p.m. against De Anza.