Braden Berner scores touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams

A long offseason filled with uncertainty ended for the Tecumseh High School football team last Friday at 7 p.m. when it took the field at home for the season opener against Northwestern.

The months of headlines about the coronavirus pandemic, the many questions about whether the state would allow teams in contact sports to compete and the numerous new health-and-safety protocols that have changed Friday nights, all of it faded when the football began.

“I was ready,” Tecumseh junior Braden Berner said. “I’ve been ready since whenever. I think our team was ready, too. We didn’t scrimmage. We didn’t know if we were going to have a season or not, and we were ready to play and it showed.”

The Arrows beat Northwestern 42-0 for their first shutout victory since the 2018 opener (31-0) against Fairborn. This season-opening victory came on the heels of a 1-9 season, the program’s worst season in this century.

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While it was a team victory, no one delivered a better performance in Week 1 — maybe in the whole state — than Berner. He scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams.

Berner opened the scoring with a 59-yard run. Then he added a 69-yard punt return touchdown in the first quarter. In the second quarter, he scored on a 4-yard run. In the fourth, he returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown.

Berner finished with 83 rushing yards on eight carries and one catch for 42 yards. He also had a fumble recovery, another interception and a team-leading nine tackles.

“It was incredible,” Berner said. “I couldn’t do it without my team, though. They were there with me.”

The punt return touchdown was Berner’s favorite score. He credited senior lineman Alex Mills for getting down the field to make an amazing block.

“Everyone ran with me,” Berner said. “It was just unbelievable what our team is doing.”

Tecumseh coach Chris Cory didn’t know what to expect in Week 1 because his team has so many young players and first-year starters.

“I thought the young kids handled it pretty well,” Cory said. “There were times we had five or six sophomores on the field at once. That group has been together a long time, and they’ve won a lot of games in younger divisions. They just know how to win. Obviously, it was nice to see us come out and play hard and play physical and play really good defense — kind of the old Tecumseh way. Play good defense, play good special teams and control the clock offensively. That’s kind of how we’ve always been, and it was great to get back to that kind of stuff.”

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Berner knows all about the Tecumseh way. His dad Jimmy Berner, now a wide receivers coach on Cory’s staff, is a 1990 Tecumseh graduate who was a News-Sun all-area selection on offense and defense. He then had a standout career as a football and baseball player at Defiance College.

Cory said Berner’s uncles Josh, Jason and Jacob Berner all played at Tecusmeh, and Berner has three cousins on the team now: Jackson, Lucas and Deacon Berner.

“It’s a great lineage,” Cory said. “They kind of live, sleep and eat football. It’s great to coach those kids.”

As for Berner’s performance, Cory said he could have had more scores. He was tackled 10 yards from the end zone after the fumble recovery and could have scored after the other interception. He also had a chance to score on a pass play. Every time Berner gets the ball, Cory said, he’s trying to score.

“It was a great performance,” Cory said. “He deserves it. He works hard at practice every day. He never loses a sprint. He watches a tremendous amount of film. He studies the game. And it showed Friday night.”

ExploreFIVE TAKEAWAYS: Reviewing Week 1

Tecumseh (1-0) plays at London (1-0) at 7 p.m. Friday in Week 2. It’s a matchup the Arrows lost 48-7 last season.

Here’s a glance at the area’s other games:

Springfield (1-0) at Centerville (1-0): Springfield won this game 41-28 last season and 49-6 in 2018.

Bellefontaine (1-0) at Shawnee (1-0): Shawnee has won the last two matchups after losing 35-0 in 2017.

Graham (1-0) at Benjamin Logan (0-1): Graham was the only Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division team to win a crossover game against the Kenton Trail Division last week. It beat Kenton Ridge 34-7. Graham has won the last two matchups against Benjamin Logan after losing eight in a row in the series.

Kenton Ridge (0-1) at Jonathan Alder (1-0): Kenton Ridge has lost three games in the series since Alder joined the conference in 2017. Matt Wichael was a bright spot for the Cougars in Week 1, rushing for 105 yards on 26 carries.

Urbana (0-1) at Northwestern (0-1): Northwestern has outscored Urbana 55-14 the last two seasons after losing 35-14 in 2017.

Northeastern (1-0) at Fairbanks (1-0): The Ohio Heritage Conference North Division won all six games against the South Division in Week 1 by a combined score of 251-47. Fairbanks had the most lopsided victory: 50-6 over Catholic Central. The Jets beat Cedarville 48-7 thanks in part to three touchdown passes and a touchdown run by Cade Houseman.

Greenon (0-1) at Catholic Central (0-1): Greenon has won three straight games in the series by a combined total of 159-27 since a 34-6 loss in 2016.

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Madison Plains (0-1) at Cedarville (0-1): Cedarville has lost six straight games in the series.

Southeastern (0-1) at Greeneview (0-1): Southeastern stopped a seven-game losing streak in the series with a 35-14 victory last season.

West Liberty-Salem (1-0) at Triad (1-0): West Liberty-Salem’s Christian Griffith (297 yards) and Nick Burden (139) lead the OHC in passing and receiving yards after one week. The Tigers have won six straight games in the series.

Mechanicsburg (1-0) at West Jefferson (1-0): Mechanicsburg suffered its first loss last season 30-22 to West Jefferson in Week 6. West Jefferson has won three straight games in the series.