Apparently no one told the Yellowjackets that there are no points for degree of difficulty in football.
Despite committing eight turnovers and racking up 115 yard in penalties, the Berkeley High football team beat Alameda-Contra Costa Athletic League newcomer Hercules in overtime, 34-28.
Berkeley (6-0 overall, 3-0 ACCAL) quarterback Dessalines Gant drove over the line from four yards out in overtime to give the Jackets the win after Hercules (3-2, 2-1) failed to score from the 25-yard line in their portion of the college-style overtime format.
The win came courtesy of the Berkeley defense, which allowed just four scores despite their offense giving the Titans great field position. Hercules started drives inside Berkeley territory seven times, including three inside the 10-yard line, and came away with scores just three of those times. The Titans gained just 212 yards in the game and turned the ball over four times.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys,” Berkeley defensive coordinator Ron Moore said. “We stopped [Hercules] a lot. I pulled out every stop to motivate those guys today.”
Safety Chris Watson had two interceptions for the Jackets, and defensive end Robert Hunter-Ford picked off a screen pass and returned it 30 yards for Berkeley’s second touchdown of the game. The Jackets also sacked Hercules quarterback Byron Edwards seven times, including one for a safety by tackle Jamal Johnson-Lucas in the second quarter.
“Our defense was amazing tonight,” Berkeley head coach Matt Bissell said. “The score won’t show it, but that was a dominating performance.”
With a halftime lead of 22-6, it looked as if Berkeley was in for yet another easy win. But Gant threw five interceptions on just seven second-half pass attempts, underthrowing several open receivers, to help keep the Titans in the game.
All three Hercules touchdowns in the second half came off of Berkeley turnovers, the last coming with 1:48 left in regulation when quarterback Byron Edwards scrambled into the end zone from five yards out to cut the Berkeley lead to 28-26. A taunting penalty moved the two-point conversion try back to the 18, but a pass interference call brought it back to the 9. Edwards found Warner West open in the end zone to tie the score and send the officials into a huddle to consult the ACCAL rule book about overtime.
Berkeley won the coin toss and elected to play defense first, with both teams getting a shot at scoring from the 25-yard line. Berkeley stopped the Titans on four plays, including defensive end Rodney Jones’ third sack of the game on fourth down, then ran the ball five times before Gant’s scoring plunge.
Berkeley head coach Matt Bissell was happy just to escape with a win after his team blew a 16-point fourth quarter lead.
“You’re always excited to go into someone else’s house and come out with a win,” Bissell said. “But there are no excuses. We just didn’t play well at all today.”
Bissell took some of the blame on himself, especially for choosing to pass with less than three minutes left in the game and an eight-point lead. Although wide receiver Sean Young was open, Gant underthrew him and Hercules safety Tito Mays came up with his second interception of the game, returning it to the Berkeley 5-yard line to set up Edwards’ touchdown run.
“That was probably a bad decision on my part,” Bissell said of the play-call. “We saw something and thought we could get a first down or touchdown. But the fact of the matter is the smart thing would have been to run the ball.”
The easiest score for Hercules was actually their longest, a 70-yard touchdown pass from Edwards to West on their first offensive play of the game. But the Titans missed the extra point, putting them behind 7-6 after a 7-yard touchdown run by Berkeley’s Craig Hollis, who scored twice in the first half.
Berkeley got its own big play from Young, who ran a double reverse 37 yards for a touchdown to put his team up 28-12 early in the fourth quarter.