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Coughlin, Berwick in key game

Neither team can afford to lose tonight’s matchup in Wilkes-Barre.

The winner is going to feel really good perched, in all likelihood, in fourth place in the District 2 Class 3A standings after the weekend is over.

Whether that good feeling lasts until the D2-3A field is set is something to worry about later.

For now, the Berwick vs. Coughlin game at 7 p.m. today at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium is all that matters.

“It’s just like the stretch earlier,” Berwick coach Gary Campbell said. “You go 3-0, then you get two losses and you’re floundering a little bit.

“That can’t happen now. We have our backs against the wall. We are desperate. We can not have a slip up.”

And that’s from the coach of the defending D2-3A champion that is currently fourth in the district standings and 140 points ahead of its closest pursuers – Coughlin and Scranton Prep – in the final playoff slot.

Tonight’s winner will probably be in fourth place after the weekend’s action.

Berwick (5-2, 600 state points) can’t go any higher, but could drop as low as seventh with a loss. The Dawgs can’t catch any of the frontrunners yet – Dallas (7-0, 900), Abington Heights (6-1, 880) and North Pocono (6-1, 830).

Coughlin (5-2, 460) faces the same scenario, likely to jump ahead of both Berwick and Prep (5-2, 460) with a victory. A loss would be more devastating as it would just about end the Crusaders’ chances of returning to the district tournament.

“Well, the playoffs started last week to be honest with you,” Coughlin coach Ciro Cinti said. “Every game is a playoff game and that’s the way we have to treat them. Our backs are against the wall. We have an outside chance (to make districts) and we’re going to play like it is our playoffs.”

At first glance, Berwick appears to be at a competitive disadvantage, having played Monday at Pittston Area. Campbell, though, pulled most of his starters early in the fourth quarter of the 33-0 win. Plus, he sees little difference in the alternative to play tonight since Holy Redeemer is using the stadium Saturday night.

“You’re choice is Saturday afternoon because Holy Redeemer has Saturday night,” Campbell said. “So it’s an 18-hour difference, and I think it’s more important to have the kids in a routine on Friday nights than it is to get those 18 hours.”

The Dawgs have one Friday night routine that is irritating to Campbell – fumbling. They have lost a WVC-high 12 fumbles this season, including three against Pittston Area. They also lost three in a win against Tunkhannock and three in a loss against Wyoming Valley West. The latter game put them in this precarious position.

Coughlin’s biggest gaffe came two weeks ago at home against then-winless Tunkhannock. The defense allowed 304 yards on the ground to the Tigers, who were averaging 100.8 per game coming in. The offense was 1-for-9 on third-down conversion attempts. The result was an unexpected 20-12 loss.

The Crusaders had just enough last Friday to defeat a struggling Wyoming Area team 15-7. The game was a synopsis of their season, strong defense and an offense that did just enough to get by.

“Offensively, I wish we could do a lot more than what we produced this year,” Cinti said. “But one of these games, we’re going to click on all cylinders, I know it.”

The main cogs in the offense are the dual tailback backfield of Parnsik (482 yds., 7 TDs) and senior Matt Shimshock (697, 4 TDs). Berwick is also leery of the connection between quarterback Mike Kearney and receiver Derrick Harold. The duo has linked up only 10 times, but for an average of 21.5 yards per pass.

Berwick is built around its defense and backfield of Lou Hampton (720, 6 TDs) and Alec Landonis (486, 5 TDs).

“Our defense will always be good at Berwick,” Campbell said. “I mean that because that’s what we’re going to put our emphasis on. If the other team can’t score, they can’t win. But offensively, though, we have to pick it up a little bit.”

Berwick has won the last three meetings, including a pair of 12-0 victories in 2008.

Both teams still have tough games remaining after tonight.

Coughlin hosts Crestwood (3-4), which has one bad performance on its resume, next Saturday and closes at Wyoming Valley West (4-3). Berwick hosts Dallas (7-0) next Friday and then plays at rival Hazleton Area (5-2) to end its regular season.

Today’s games

(7 p.m.)

Berwick at Coughlin

GAR at Nanticoke

Hazleton Area at Crestwood

Pittston Area at Hanover Area

Tunkhannock at Wyoming Area

Wyo. Valley West at Williamsport

Saturday’s games

Hill School at Wyoming Seminary, 2 p.m.

Pocono Mtn. East at Dallas, 2 p.m.

Meyers at Lake-Lehman, 7 p.m.

Northwest at Holy Redeemer, 7 p.m.

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