For one half of yesterday's title game against visiting Boys' Latin, St. Paul's Chris Berrier was in one of his worst games of the year.
In the second half, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior was at his rushing best.
Berrier rushed for a touchdown and a season-high 247 yards -- 196 in the second half -- as No. 6 St. Paul's improved to a school-record 10-0 and won the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference crown with a 14-0 victory.
And as a bonus, Berrier watched the field he had just played on become dedicated to Mitch Tullai, his coach during his sophomore season.
Tullai, 67, survivor of his second heart attack in eight years in September, called the naming of the field "a great honor, second only to my family."
Tullai retired in 1993 from 41 years as the area's second-winningest coach (209-126) with 10 Maryland Scholastic Association titles.
"It was a great day," said Berrier, who has 1,781 yards and 22 touchdowns. "But it was also one of my tougher games."
No. 14 Boys' Latin (7-3, 5-1) has been without seven starters at various times this year, and missed its best lineman, Rob Turchi (chicken pox) yesterday.
But the Lakers' 5-3 defense, led by Jake Hunter, Chris Savage and T. W. Winston, did a nice job of limiting the Crusaders (6-0 league) to 98 first-half rushing yards.
But coach Drew Haugh said his Lakers "were worn down" in the third quarter, particularly linebacker-lineman John Reichl, forced by Turchi's absence to play both ways.
"We had some athletes who really had to put their butts on the line," said Hunter, "but once Berrier gets going, he's hard to stop."
With Berrier and Scott Kim (10 carries, 66 yards) mercilessly hammering the middle, St. Paul's opened the second half with a nine-play, 71-yard drive, capped by Kim's 4-yard scoring burst up the middle.
It included Conor Gill's passes of 48 and 11 yards to Richard Reid and Chris Kakel, and David Rausch's first of two extra-point kicks for a 7-0 lead with 7:27 left.
"Our traps were working much better," said second-year St. Paul's coach Brian Abbott.
Then Reid's first of two interceptions set the stage for Berrier, who rushed four straight times for 54 yards -- the final time covering 29 yards for a 14-0 lead 3:47 before the final quarter.
"We decided to cross them up by mixing up in the middle instead of just off-tackle," said Berrier. "Our linemen really stepped up. We'd just come too far."
Boys' Latin blew a chance for a lead in the second period, after quarterback Aaron Vercollone (8-for-19, 96 yards) and Ryan Mollett (50 yards rushing, 45 receiving) had combined the run, the pass and the option to cover 92 yards in 21 plays.
But on the drive's last two plays, Mollett's option pass fell incomplete in the end zone at Hunter's feet, and another from Vercollone -- who at one point faced first-and-31 from his own 7 -- was caught short by Hunter at the 1.
"If we'd have scored, it might have been different. But maybe we were too anxious," said Vercollone, a junior who eluded linemen such as Rassan Jones and Brandon Bortner (one sack) most of the afternoon. "We were pretty confident coming in. I just feel bad for our seniors."
St. Paul's also botched a scoring chance at the end of an 89-yard second quarter drive as Rausch's 28-yard field goal went wide.