Bernards came out of the box playing ball control offense Sunday afternoon, and though it wouldn’t pay off until after halftime, the result was a 14-7 victory over the Comets in the first part of a doubleheader “Big Central Game of the Week” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland.
In a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, the victory by the Mountaineers in the “Rumble on the Raritan” was their first against Hillside since September 23, 2016, almost five years. That was a string of five losses over the four previous seasons, including twice in 2018, in the regular season and the playoffs.
Bernards controlled the ball for nearly the first ten minutes of the game, and had a major advantage in time of possession the entire game, holding the ball for almost 34 of the 48 minutes, though they trailed 7-0 at halftime after a Caleb Salters 81-yard touchdown pass to Justin Mays.
But Bernards would score a pair of unanswered touchdowns in the second half. Quarterback Connor Laverty threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brady Walsh just past t he midway point of the third quarter, while Chris Dietrich broke the tie and put the Mountaineers ahead for good with 8:36 remaining on a one-yard touchdown run, capping a nine play, 47-yard drive in 3:09 of game time.
Bernards moves to 1-1, while Hillside drops to 0-1.
Though he never reached the end zone, Michael Leanza was the workhorse all day for Bernards, grinding out 150 yards on 37 carries an average of 4.1 yards per touch. Leanza was named the Big Central Player of the Game, and will receive a custom game ball at the end of the season, courtesy of Autoland. He was also named the Rumble on the Raritan game MVP.
Click below to hear Bernards HS student Matt Lesnik with postgame reaction from Leanza and head coach Jon Simoneau: