Berkshire Kings Drop Season Opener
SCHUYLERVILLE, N.Y. -- The Berkshire Kings did not get their football season off to the fast start they were hoping for on Saturday night.
But there was plenty of reason for optimism on the Kings sideline after a 35-18 loss to rival Southern Vermont at Schuylerville High School.
"This is the team, right here," Kings captain Aaron Chappell said, indicating the victorious Storm (2-0). "They're blowing other teams out. We held our own, so if we can pick it up a little bit, the next game is going to be the game."
Southern Vermont quarterback Will Cole threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns, including a 40-yarder that put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter.
Northern Berkshire (0-1) got 131 yards on the ground and 102 yards of passing from quarterback Joe Wiggins.
The game was both closer than the final score indicated and not as close -- depending on your perspective.
For the Kings, it is worth noting that they held the Storm to just one touchdown in the second half after going into half-time down 28-12. And when Wiggins scampered around the right side for a 7-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 28-18, the Kings were within a 2-point conversion of making it a one-score game with 14 minutes, 53 seconds left to play.
But when that conversion came up just short of the goalline, the math became considerably more difficult. And when Southern Vermont stormed down the field in five plays to push its lead to 17, it was clear that it was not the Kings' night.
From the Storm's standpoint, the game should have been out of reach long before that fourth-quarter score. Southern Vermont left points on the field on its first possessions in each half.
The Storm's first possession of the game went from its 33 to the Berkshire 5, but on fourth-and-goal, a fumbled snap gave the Kings the ball.
The "home" team then took the second-half kickoff at its 38 and completed three straight passes. But on the third pass play, the receiver was stripped at the 9, and the Kings recovered.
But by and large -- and despite a rash of injuries that hampered the already slim 25-man roster for Berkshire, the Kings acquitted themselves well in the second half.
A hurry-up offense implemented at the start of the third quarter did some damage against Southern Vermont, and Berkshire's defense gave up fewer passing yards and only seven points.
The Kings scored first, taking a 6-0 lead when Wiggins broke free on a keeper to the left side and raced 78 yards to give his team a 6-0 lead.
Southern Vermont responded on its next possession with a balanced drive that featured four runs and three passes, went 68 yards and ended in a 17-yard scoring strike by Cole. Cole capped the storm's next possession with 62-yarder deep over the middle to make it 14-6.
But the Kings bounced back with a 51-yard drive. Backup QB Qujay Sumpter lofted a 30-yard pass to Dante Turner to get Berkshire within two points, 14-12.
The Storm scored the only two touchdowns of the second quarter -- first on a 1-yard goalline plunge by Cole and then, with three seconds on the clock, a 24-yard pass that took advantage of a short field after a failed fake punt by the Kings in the closing moments of the half.
In the third quarter, Berkshire showed signs of being able to sustain a running game with Wiggins, Steven Sumpter and Chuck Gillis, but the Storm kept the visitors at arm's length.
"The offense definitely stepped up," Chappell said. "It could do a little more, but it's early in the season. First game. It's all we can do. No. 5 [Derek Saunders], the kid came out on fire today."
Northern Berkshire is on the road again next week at the Granite State Destroyers.