NEWBERRY — Not since Newberry High School’s 2001 homecoming has its football team played with heavy hearts several days after going through the ordeal of burying a teammate.
The Bulldogs never trailed in their 19-13 victory over White Knoll that night.
At the 2013 homecoming this past Friday, Newberry came only four points shy of scoring the most points it has ever scored in one of its 773 games in team history, two days after seeing a member of the class of 2015 laid to rest.
The Bulldogs scored the first 33 points of the game as they remain undefeated on the season after three games with their 62-20 victory over Berea high.
The 130 combined points of Newberry is the most points the Bulldogs have scored in its first three games in team history. Head coach Phil Strickland saw his 2001 Batesburg-Leesville team score 135 points in a personal best for him after three games.
Never before in its 74 previous homecomings did Newberry have it on its home opening night, but an absolutely gorgeous evening left no qualms about it being even played on Friday the 13th.
At the Berea game last year in Greenville, Newberry needed a seasonal second best time of 23 seconds to score its first touchdown of the game.
The Bulldogs began play at its own 45 after a 22-yard kickoff return by Chris Wadsworth.
After a 29-yard pickup by Devin Marshall, quarterback Yafari Werts faked a handoff which seemed to fool the entire Berea team as he kept the ball instead to score from 23 yards out just 39 seconds into the game.
Mishandling the extra point snap, Werts tried to throw for the two-point play instead to Trey Gary. The pass fell incomplete.
Berea punted after a three-and-out 81 seconds later.
Zy Towns’ 24 yard return put the Bulldogs only nine yards from another potential touchdown.
Jaylen Caldwell scored two plays later with a four yard carry. Jose Lozano’s extra point kick was good as Newberry had a 13-0 lead with still 9:16 left in the first quarter.
Making their way across midfield, a mishandled snap out of the shotgun formation tacked on another nine yards to Berea’s second down yardage. They would never recover from this fumble recovery as the Bulldogs of Greenville county punted three plays later.
Starting from their worst possession of the evening, their 23, Newberry needed less than 100 seconds to light up the scoreboard again.
The two TV stations that were at the game were probably gone before one play that was worthy of being seen on “SportsCenter” occurred on this drive.
With the ball on the Newberry 42 and a first down, Werts went to the air to Dominic Gilmore.
The Berea player tapped the ball up as Gilmore never lost concentration on it to haul in the pass at the 19, for a total of 39 yards for Newberry’s longest pass reception of the night.
Omar Sims scored two plays later from two yards out as the score was now 20-0 after the Lozano extra point kick with 3:16 left in the first quarter.
Holding Berea to a three-and-out before making two pass plays, Newberry began the second quarter three yards from the end zone.
Sims scored his second touchdown of the evening two plays later from here as the Lozano kick put Newberry ahead 27-0 with 11:10 before the break.
After a Berea punt, Newberry began at midfield at the 9:32 mark.
Getting down to the eight yard line, Lozano was sent in as his 28-yard field goal split the uprights with 6:27 left in the first half.
Berea was held to another three-and-out as they were penalized 15 yards on the punt for not allowing the Bulldog time to make the catch.
The fifteen yard mark-off put the Bulldogs at the Berea 30.
Keeping the ball on the ground the entire drive, Newberry got down to the 18 before Lozano was sent out again as his 39-yard field goal easily made it through as Newberry was 1:32 away from taking a halftime lead of 33-0 into the locker rooms.
Berea had another idea though.
On the ensuing kickoff, Tremaine Irby took it 93 yards for the touchdown but the two-point pass play was incomplete.
Werts would be intercepted three plays later, putting Berea at the Newberry 15.
They would score two plays later as the two teams went into the locker rooms with Newberry holding onto a 33-12 lead with Berea getting ready to receive the opening second half kickoff.
During halftime ceremonies, Jada Boyd was named as the team sweetheart before Quateria Wadsworth was named as the first runner-up for the homecoming queen. Eva Derrick was crowned as Newberry’s 67th homecoming queen.
Aside from two teams returning the second half opening kickoff back for touchdowns last season, Berea became the first team in 16 games to score a touchdown on its first offensive possession of the second half.
The Bulldogs finished a 57-yard eight play drive with a quarterback keeper from two yards out. The two-point pass was good as Berea ended a 20-point run in 4:15 of play.
“Berea kind of woke up,” said Strickland of their 20-point run. “We regrouped and did the things we needed to do to win the ballgame.”
On Newberry’s first offensive possession the second half, Jaylen Caldwell scored on a 65-yard run for the touchdown.
A bad snap resulted in Werts instead scoring on the two-point conversion with his run.
Jemerio Gary would intercept the Berea pass five plays later, putting Newberry at the Berea 20.
On a fourth-and-goal from the one, Sims was stopped for a four-yard loss.
This would be Newberry’s only second half possession in which they would not score.
Khalil Sheppard intercepted a Berea pass two plays later 18 yards from the endzone.
Werts scored two plays later from here as Lozano’s kick made the score 48-20 with 1:56 left in the third quarter.
Newberry would start the fourth quarter looking at a second-and-three from the Berea 30.
Werts scored his third touchdown of the night one play later for the 55-30 score.
Newberry started it last offensive possession at the Berea 45 after a punt.
With Sheppard leading the team down the field now, the junior kept the ball on the ground all eight plays with the drive ending with a two yard carry from Xay Sims-Boyd.
Lozano’s PAT ended the scoring with 3:31 left in the game.
The AA third-ranked Bulldogs return to Mike Ware Field on Friday to host Chapin. The Eagles are 1-2 on the season as they look to snap a two-game losing streak to Newberry.
“We always have a good game with Chapin,” noted Strickland. “They both run and pass the ball extremely well so they are real balanced. They have a good solid program so I know they’re going to come in here and get after us good,” he noted.