Pictured above: Taheed Jewell caught four passes during Valley View’s late comeback. (Tim Drewes Photo)
PECKVILLE – Robert Altieri took the ball away and the Valley View offense would not give it back.
Struggling to just 10 points in the first 7-plus quarters of the season, the Cougars escaped from the brink of an 0-2 start by scoring on their last 3 drives Friday night for a come-from-behind, 24-21 victory over visiting Berwick in a non-league game.
The Cougars put together the three scoring drives with the same combination that carried them through the first half of the 2021 season – Connor Hilling’s running and Adam Howanitz’s passing.
Howanitz was still looking for his first completion of the game when Altieri pounced on a loose ball after Berwick botched a handoff at the Valley View 22 while seemingly poised to add to its 14-3 lead with the help of a blocked punt.
From there, Howanitz converted five third- or fourth-down situations, four on passes and one with a run.
Valley View sustained its drives by going 4-for-6 on third downs, then 2-for-2 on fourth downs the two times they were forced to gamble while behind in the fourth quarter.
Hilling had just 18 yards on his first 10 carries, but he churned out 50 on 11 carries to help Valley View hold the ball for 14:33 of the 17:13 after Altieri’s fumble recovery.
It was Hilling on the first four plays, including a third-down conversion, in Valley View’s first touchdown drive since the first half of the Opening Night loss at Crestwood.
The Cougars moved 76 yards in 12 plays, spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter.
Howanitz passed 17 yards to Taheed Jewell on third-and-nine to get across midfield then 12 yards to Christopher Savkov on third-and-seven to reach the Red Zone.
Hilling took it from there with an 11-yard run followed by a 6-yard touchdown off left tackle.
Dominic Memo took a Howanitz pass and got to the pylon for the two-point conversion to cut Berwick’s lead to 14-11 with 10:09 left.
Gianni Marino’s third-down pass rush forced a quick three-and-out by Berwick and Valley View went 56 yards in 8 plays to take the lead with 3:39 left.
Howanitz found A.J. Kucharski for 24 yards to the 10, then hit Jewell for 6 yards on third-and-goal from the 7. Howanitz carried into the end zone from the 1 on a fourth-down quarterback sneak and Jacob Nielsen added the kick for an 18-14 lead.
All that work seemed like it might go to waste when Bo Sheptock took a quick Matt Lonczynski pass and sprinted down the right sideline for a 77-yard touchdown that put Berwick back in front, 21-18.
But, Valley View again drove for a dozen plays, covering 80 yards for the score.
Howanitz, who finished with 8 completions for 142 yards, found Jewell for 16 and 18 yards, Memo for 23 and James Liparulo for 26. The second completion to Jewell came on fourth-and-12 from Valley View’s 34. The pass to Liparulo, on third-and-13, took the ball to the 2.
Another Howanitz sneak covered the final 2 yards and put Valley View ahead with 53 seconds left.
Preston Reed’s second-down sack kept Berwick from getting anything started on the final drive and Connor Swartz combined with Camryn Higgins to provide the coverage to break up a fourth-down pass attempt.
Nielsen had opened the scoring with a 34-yard field goal, but Berwick moved in front before the first quarter was over on Drey Wilk’s 57-yard touchdown run.
Sheptock scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 26-yard run in the third quarter. He led Berwick (0-2) with 85 yards on 2 catches along with 84 yards rushing.
Jewell caught 4 passes for 57 yards for Valley View.
Dylan Walsh had seven tackles and a sack to lead the Cougars defense.
Zach Cwalinski had two of Valley View’s six sacks before leaving the game in the second quarter with an injury.
Photo Gallery: Berwick/Valley View football photo gallery – NEPA Sports Nation.
Friday scoreboard: Friday’s football scoreboard – NEPA Sports Nation.