BERLIN - It was a few days before the Berlin football team was set to play Sheehan in the Class M semifinals and head coach Joe Aresimowicz was sitting in the coaches’ room at Sage Park going over some final prep work for the afternoon’s practice.
Stopping Titans running back Terrenence Bogan had been high on that list that day and in all, it seemed like any other practice with a game quickly approaching. But it was in the middle of breaking down Sheehan, its strengths and weaknesses, when Aresimowicz said something that resonated greatly among his staff as well as the players. About why the Redcoats were finally able to reach the Class M championship game after a 34-22 win over the Titans Monday night.
It wasn’t that Berlin (11-1) was averaging 36.3 points a game on offense, or allowing just 10.0 points on defense, or having a myriad of playmakers that had gotten it a matchup against the No. 1 team in Class M, St. Joseph (11-1), on Saturday afternoon. Those were merely a byproduct of a five-letter word that he believes the Redcoats are built upon, and have continued to build upon, just as much as talent: trust.
“When [the players] come off the field, if there’s a mistake, a breakdown, if there’s a timeout and we go in to fix something, they’re waiting for the answer,” Aresimowicz said. “And then when we give them the answer, we trust them to execute. [It] takes time to build that trust. I think they have that now.”
In a way, it has all the makings to sound cliché, and perhaps a little much at first, but ask any of those around the program and they’ll say something similar. That goes for players-to-players as well as players-to-coaches and coaches-to-coaches.
Everything is often in sync. It’s noticeable out on the field. It can be seen when a play breaks down.
If quarterback Kevin Dunn is flushed from the pocket, his receivers know when and where to break off their routes and end up. More times than not, the ball finds its target. On defense, players are rarely out of place.
And as Aresimowicz said, the players rarely make the same mistake twice. If there is one, Berlin tends to look at why it happened, provide some positive words and make sure the players go back out there prepared the second or third time around.
“It helps a lot because you don’t have to worry about anything else and the moment isn’t too big,” junior fullback and defensive end Zach Hrubiec said. “That’s why we’re where we’re at and playing in the state championship game. The coaches always say, ‘Let us coach and you play and everything will take care of itself,’ and that’s what it’s been.”
Added senior linebacker Domenic Scarano, “The coaches always come up with a great game plan every week and put us in a great position to make plays. So, the players trust the coaches and in return, the coaches trust the players to do our jobs. Then, it’s also a brotherhood between Berlin football players from the defense, offense and special teams. We’re always there for each other.”
Yes, it helps that many of the players have been playing together for more than a decade, since they were in elementary school, and that this core group of players - Dunn, Hrubiec, Alex Halkias, Dominic and Marco Scarano, Giancarlo Tufano and Larry St. Pierre - have had the benefit of playing varsity as underclassmen.
But there’s also the fact that many, if not all, genuinely like each other. It’s not uncommon to see many of the players with one of their teammates close by off the field.
“When you’re playing with your childhood best friend, you just have that connection,” Halkias said. “You play backyard football with him. Everything is there, that timing and trust are there. Some teams can’t really say they have that.”
And that’s something the Redcoats believe will help play a factor against St. Joseph. Talent always plays a role, but it can only go so far. Trusting the person next to you to do what they’re supposed to do when you line up for 48 minutes is just as critical. Sometimes, it can make the difference.
“Pretty much everyone that I play with, I’ve grown up with since third grade and we’ve been playing football together,” Dunn said. “When you build that bond with your best friends, you’re just playing football and having fun and it brings a different element to the game.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com