Spartans corral Mustangs

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

It would be a mistake to discount the enormous impact of coaching and how it can affect the outcomes of games.

The Berthoud High School (BHS) football coaching staff developed an excellent game plan, spent the week coaching their team in specific, nuanced techniques and the players executed it all to near perfection as the Spartans won a huge game over formidable Fort Morgan 22-10 last Friday at Max Marr Field at BHS.

It was Berthoud’s offensive line of Derek Sandstedt, Michael Doolittle, Zak Starkey, Eric Rome and Caleb Kelly and defensive front-seven that got the best of their larger opponents on the other side of the ball to give the Spartans their fourth victory in as many tries.

“I think the stats and the scoreboard speak for themselves,” an elated BHS Head Coach Troy Diffendaffer said after the game. “Those guys up front were just amazing all night long, just kept grinding, they were bigger than us and we just kept pushing back on both sides.”

It certainly was not easy for Berthoud; they were physically over-matched and the Mustangs held their own far more often than not, but the Spartans won enough small battles here and there to make a decisive impact on the game’s outcome.

Berthoud took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves. Early in the first quarter, an excellent punt from Ryan Schmad pinned the Mustangs on their own one yard line. Fort Morgan called a sweep on their first play from scrimmage and Schmad and linebacker Dakota Leonard sniffed it our perfectly, tackling the Mustang ball carrier in the end zone for a safety to give Berthoud a 2-0 lead just 2:17 into the game.

Late in the game with Berthoud holding a one score lead, 15-10, Fort Morgan’s go-ahead drive was aided by a pair of pass interference penalties called on the Spartans. Yet on second and six a pass across the middle was deflected and Berthoud cornerback Miguel Sarmiento leapt for the ball and came down with a huge, momentum-swinging interception.

Over the course of the game, Berthoud found ways to exploit matchups in their favor. In their drive that followed the early safety, the Spartans spread the field and used their speed to counter Fort Morgan’s size. Quarterback Brock Voth kept the ball on an option play and scrambled up the middle for an 18 yard gain. Three plays later on third and two from the Fort Morgan 26 saw Voth shoot through the middle again, not stopping until he crossed the goal line to give Berthoud a 9-0 lead.

Voth would find Schmad over the middle in the third quarter as the do-it-all senior split the Fort Morgan safeties and went 61 yards to give Berthoud a 15-10 lead. Voth iced the game for Berthoud in the fourth, leading an eight-play, 75-yard drive that was aided by 51 yard catch and run from Cooper Stratmeyer, before Voth scored his second touchdown of the game with a five yard run that gave his Spartans a 22-10 lead with less than a minute remaining.

It was Berthoud’s effort on defense – against the big, physical Mustang offense – where the game was ultimately decided and, once again, superb coaching matched with excellent execution made the difference.

As senior defensive lineman C.J. Balliet, who finished with eight tackles and a pair of sacks, explained after the game, “throughout the week we were constantly told it was going to be a dog fight up front, we’ve got to hand place, we’ve got to own our gap, so practiced and practiced that. Coach Frye did an excellent job preparing us for that.”

Balliet’s d-line counterpart, junior Ty Beaman, also made mention of the emphasis on hand placement and gap discipline. “We just worked on hand placement every single day, making sure our hands are there, staying disciplined in our gaps, because they were just letting us go and hoping we’d go up field and they’d run right past us,” said Beaman, who paced Berthoud with three sacks.

Berthoud’s front-seven stayed true to their game plan and did not surrender large chunks on the ground, routinely putting Fort Morgan in and-long situations. By forcing the Mustangs to pass, Beaman, Balliet, Schmad and Conner Liebman all notched sacks the in the game while their ability to control the line of scrimmage allowed sure-tackling linebackers Anthony Trojahn, Jett Glasser and Leonard to corral Fort Morgan’s ground game, the team’s bread-and-butter.

Said Beaman when asked the importance of the win, “It’s huge for us because Fort Morgan is one of the powerhouses in 3A and we just went out there and beat them. It feels awesome.”

Berthoud (4-0) remains in the No. 4 spot in 3A RPI (.712) and will travel north to take on Thompson Valley (0-4) at Ray Patterson Field in Loveland on Friday.

 

 

 

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