Berwick High's Josh Carver goes up for the ball in last week's win against Eunice. The No. 11 seed Panthers enter the second round of playoffs when they face No. 6 seed St. Francisville Saints in a 7 p.m. contest on the road Friday.
—The Daily Review/Mico Aloisio
Berwick to take on West Feliciana Friday
Berwick continues to make gridiron history with the school’s first playoff win in 21 years. The Panthers (8-3) stretched a 7-point halftime lead into in a 34-14 first-round playoff win over Eunice at Geisler Stadium in Berwick last week.
“I was excited for the kids and for the community,” said Berwick Coach Eric Holden. “We have been talking about instilling a standard here and the one thing you have to do to be a winning program is always make the playoffs. We lost in the first-round last year and we took another step this year by winning that first-round game.”
Berwick, the No. 11 seed, advances to the regional round of the state playoffs to face West Feliciana (10-1) the No. 6 seed in St. Francisville Friday.
Against Eunice, BHS wasted little time answering the opposing team’s opening touchdown, tying the game on a 42-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mitchell Sanford to receiver Josh Carver at 11:41. Seth Canty added the point-after kick to tie the game at 7-7. Berwick took the lead after Kenan Jones returned a Eunice punt 28-yards to the Bobcats 30-yard line. The Panthers converted the short field into points after five straight runs found Sanford in the end zone on a 1-yard sneak. Canty added the point-after kick for a 14-7 lead with 4:28 remaining before halftime.
Berwick’s defense slowed Eunice’s run game and held on fourth-down giving the ball back to the offense with 51 seconds remaining but the offense couldn’t convert. BHS led 14-7.
“We had some bad calls that slowed us down or derailed drives in the first half,” Holden said after the historic win. “But the kids responded well, snapped back and we got back into our rhythm.”
One way to get back into your rhythm offensively is get the ball into your best player’s hands.
Mitchell did just that, hitting Jones for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 5:52 left in the third quarter. Canty’s PAT was blocked so the Panthers led 20-7.
BHS’ defense had two sacks to force punts early in the quarter.
“Our defense has grown up, in the last 12 quarters of football we’ve given up just 21 points,” Holden said. “And we’ve made some adjustments. They’ve turned into something different, something better.”
Credit defensive stalwarts like defensive back Lucas Hatch, defensive lineman Kenny Rhodes, linebacker/defensive back Brennan Benedietto, linebacker Cade Thibodeaux and defensive back Barrett Hover with strong play during last Friday’s playoff opener.
Berwick led 20-7 after three quarters.
Josh Jones added a 1-yard scoring run to cap an 11-play, 70-yard drive with 11:13 remaining in the game. Canty’s kick extended the Panthers lead to 27-7. Eunice answered with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Brasseaux to Josh Youngblood. But it was K. Jones’ interception and 70-yard return for a touchdown, where he weaved his way through would-be tacklers to seal the Panthers’ playoff win.
Berwick rolled up 278 yards of total offense (138 yards rushing and 140 yards passing).
Mitchell Sanford was nine of 20 in passing for 140 yards and two touchdowns to lead the BHS offense. He also rushed seven times for 35 yards and another score.
The dynamic duo of Josh Carver and K. Jones led the receivers with two receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 43 yards and a touchdown, respectively. J. Jones added three catches for 23 yards while Denver Jenkins had two catches for 20 yards.
J. Jones was the Panthers’ leading rusher with 18 carries for 103 yards and touchdown.
Looking to Friday’s game against St. Francis, the Panthers will face a team that beat No. 27 seed North Webster 42-13 in the playoff opener last week. Quarterback Derek Turner ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 88 yards and another score to lead the West Feliciana. The Saints set the tone early with 21 first-quarter points. Davon Harris also scored two touchdowns and ran for 106 yards.
“They are a powerful, talented team,” Holden said. “They’re fast, they’re smart, and they’re well coached. They are equipped to win a championship.
“They have been in the semi-finals the last two years. This is a program that has always won and I would love to get our guys to that level one day.”
The road to that day could be Friday when the Panthers and Saints meet at 7 p.m.
“I’m excited to face that caliber program and I just hope we can come out there and compete,” said Holden. “We have a good plan and we have to execute that plan or they will hurt us.”
—The advocate.com contributed to this story.