Bernards, in midst of historic season, faces sectional semi opponent also re-writing its own record books

Senior QB Connor Laverty runs four yards for a touchdown against Hillside in a Big Central game on September 2, 2023 at Conant Street Park in Hillside. (Source: Marcus Borden)

Jon Simoneau sees a lot of similarities between his team and Sussex Tech, Bernards’ opponent Friday night in the North 2, Group 2 semifinals at Olcott Field.

Chief among them is this: just like the Mountaineers, they’re having a historic season, too.

Second-seed Bernards is 10-0 for the first time ever, looking for its first appearance in a sectional final since 2016, when they lost to Manasquan up at Kean. Sixth-seed Sussex Tech (7-3) is having its best season since an 8-2 year in 2019.

But while Bernards has won eight games a year exactly for six straight seasons now, the better part of the past decade has been sub-.500 years for the Fighting Mustangs.

Still, Simoneau, the Bernards head coach, knows they will not be an easy task, or go quietly into the Bernardsville night.

Tech won’t throw the ball much – they’ve only attempted 45 passes all season (fewer than five a game) – but they do have two thousand-yard rushers: junior quarterback Brian Gruber has 1,083 and 14 touchdowns, while senior Andrew Baker leads the team with 1,221 yards and 17 scores on the ground.

Simoneau believes his team’s physical play, with an extra dose of “‘Nards Ball” attitude, as they call it in those parts, will be the difference.

The winner will face off next weekend against the winner of the other semifinal between 5th-seed Lakeland (7-3) and top-seed Caldwell (9-0), which currently is on the state’s longest active winning streak, now at 37 games.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Bernards’ head coach Jon Simoneau:

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