Berthoud drops to 0-2 after 49-28 loss
By Dan Karpiel
Crisp and clear with a very slight breeze out of the north; it was one of those picture-perfect evenings for football on the high plains. Unfortunately for the Berthoud Spartans football team, the weather was the only pleasant thing about Friday evening. The Sterling Tigers ran over the Spartans, literally, accumulating close to 300 yards on the ground in a 49-28 rout. The loss drops the Spartans to 0-2 on the season and leaves the team with more questions than answers.
The Tiger ground attack was relentless, chipping away at the Spartan defense all game long. Sterling’s final, game-clinching drive of the night was representative of their approach all game long. The 14-play drive took 8:24 off the clock and was capped off with a 15-yard touchdown run from Tiger quarterback Alex Beardsley. Time and again the Tigers were able to pick up just enough yards to sustain drives and slowly demoralize the Spartan defense.
To their credit, Berthoud was able to keep the score close throughout most of the game. Despite accumulating 166 rushing yards in the first half, Sterling held a precarious 28-21 lead at halftime. Unlike Sterling’s ground-and-pound approach, the Spartans first half points came off big plays. Berthoud answered two Sterling scoring drives by returning the subsequent kickoff for touchdowns.
The first return, which would also be the Spartans’ first score of the evening, came from junior Gregory Hutchins with 2:02 remaining in the first quarter. Hutchins did a masterful job following his blocks, made a few stellar cutbacks and broke a tackle on the nearly 80-yard gallop.
Berthoud’s second kickoff return touchdown of the night came at a critical point in the game. After allowing Sterling to take a 28-7 lead, junior Chase Fraser submitted his own highlight reel kickoff return. Fraser’s touchdown run was just as well-executed as Hutchins’ and came at a very critical point in the game. The return electrified the Spartans who, after forcing a Sterling three-and-out, marched down the field for a touchdown to close out the first half. With only 0:37 left junior quarterback Zachary Reubesam scrambled for a score, leaping over three Tiger players and flipping head-over-heels into the end zone.
A tense moment for Berthoud came late in the second quarter when Gregory Hutchins suffered a serious injury to his lower leg. Looking like he might sprint downfield for another touchdown, Hutchins ended up on the bottom of a pile near midfield after being hit on an attempt to cut inside some Sterling players. “I heard a pop” Hutchins said, “the doctor thinks (the ankle) is broken, the trainer thinks it’s torn ligaments.” Hutchins spent the remainder of the game on the bench, wearing a hooded sweatshirt with his injured leg covered by a blanket and looking understandably dejected. No further information was available about Gregory’s injury, but it does not look like the junior will return to action this season.
Despite going into halftime with the momentum from the two late second quarter touchdowns, the Spartans remained unable to answer Sterling’s offensive attack. The Tigers scored the first two touchdowns of the second half, taking back control of the game. Workhorse halfback Luke Engelhaupt continued to pound through the Spartan’s front seven, exasperating Berthoud defensive coordinator Troy Diffendaffer. Following their first scoring drive of the half, Sterling would put more points on the board with a 30 yard scoring pass to senior receiver Dalton Reinhardt.
Down 43-21 with 11:54 remaining in the game, the Spartans were forced to go into their hurry-up offense. Knowing Berthoud was going to have to pass on nearly every play, the Sterling defense began to blitz heavily. The Spartans did a fine job countering the Tiger pass rush and Ruebesam demonstrated nice pocket presence by scrambling for some yards and completing a few passes on the run. Berthoud would get their final touchdown of the night on another big play as Ruebesam scrambled to his right and hit junior receiver Michael Nienaber down the sideline for a touchdown. The score cut the Tiger lead to 43-28. Sadly, it was too little, too late for Berthoud. With barely a minute remaining in the game, Sterling intercepted Ruebesam for the second time on the night, effectively ending the contest.
The loss drops the Spartans to 0-2 on the season. Berthoud will have a week to regroup before traveling to Frederick on September 17. Berthoud’s next home game will come a week later on September 24 when the Fort Lupton Blue Devils visit Max Marr Field.