“Our defense has played exceptionally well, probably the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here and I’ve been here a long time,” Cory said. “Offensively, we haven’t scored a lot of points, but we’ve been doing kind of what our blueprint is — holding onto the ball, running clock and trying to keep their offense off the field. … We’re just playing old school football.”
Berner has played a key role in the Arrows’ success this season. He’s rushed for 90 or more yards in every game, including a career-high 305 yards and four TDs in a Week 5 victory at Benjamin Logan. He also tallied 42 tackles at linebacker for the Arrows.
“He’s playing 100 snaps every game,” Cory said.
A year ago, Berner rushed for 335 yards and five TDs in season-opening wins against Fairborn and Carroll, but suffered an injury that forced him to miss the next five games.
“It was pretty hard to watch my team and not be able to play with them,” Berner said. “I learned a lesson through it. You can’t always be there, you have to help your team in other ways. It’s hard to watch when you want to be out there on the field.”
He rushed for 627 yards and six TDs last season.
“He was well on pace for 1,000 yards when he had the injury and probably came back a little too soon,” Cory said.
This fall, he’s making up for lost time. Berner carried the ball 43 times for 178 yards in last week’s 21-17 victory over Shawnee, playing every snap of the game, including defense.
“You have to do what you have to do,” Berner said. “I wanna be out there. I wanna be playing.”
He gave all the credit to his teammates for creating plenty of room to run in the Arrows physical, run-based Wing-T offense. The Arrows’ senior class has been running the same system for six years and it fits their smashmouth style of play, Berner said.
“I have a really great line and great blocking in front of me,” Berner said. “We all know our offense to a tee. We run it every day in practice. We don’t make mistakes in it anymore. We all know we can rely on each other since we’ve been together so long running the exact same thing.”
Berner has deceptive speed and can run over people, Cory said. He’s also got “that one little move in the hole” to make someone miss and get another four to five yards. It also helps having spent so much time in the offense.
“He has a feel for where the hole is going to be and where his guy is going to block,” Cory said.
All three of the Arrows’ losses this season have been by seven points or less, including two 3-point losses to both Graham and Bellefontaine.
Two weeks ago, the Arrows beat London 6-3 and beat rival Shawnee 21-17 last week. The early season losses helped Tecumseh during those victories, Berner said.
“We learned to persevere through them,” he said. “We’ve been there before and we knew what to do.”
Tecumseh (5-3, 2-1) sits one game back of first-place Bellefontaine (7-1, 3-0) in the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division race. They travel to Plain City for a key division game against Jonathan Alder (5-3, 1-2). They’ll need to earn victories against Jonathan Alder and Kenton Ridge in their final two games and get some help to earn a share of their first CBC title since 2012.
“We’ve got to take care of business,” Cory said. “It’s out of our hands, but we’ve put ourselves in a position where we have a chance.”
Berner is hoping the Arrows can take care of business and keep playing as long as possible. The Arrows are also likely in the mix for a playoff berth in Division III, Region 12.
“I love being with my team,” Berner said. “They’re all my brothers.”
Cory knows Berner and his teammates will be ready to finish strong.
“He’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever had and I’ve been here 27 years,” Cory said. “He’s one of the single most-focused kids – nutrition, weight room, running, he’s still in the running for valedictorian. He’s such a focused kid. He’s a pleasant kid. He’s the kind of the kid that you would want your daughter to date.
“But when he’s on the football field, he wants to play football and that’s his focus.”
Miamisburg at Springfield
Triad at Northeastern
Greeneview at Catholic Central
Southeastern at Cedarville
Tecumseh at Jonathan Alder
Bellefontaine at Kenton Ridge
Shawnee at London
Urbana at Northwestern
Greenon at Madison Plains
West Liberty-Salem at Mechanicsburg
Graham at Benjamin Logan
(All games scheduled for 7 p.m.)