In the new playoff format the NJSIAA instituted in 2018, going away from four geographically pre-determined playoff sections in each group, many teams would be familiar with each other, even when they got to the state finals.
See the epic battles between Piscataway and Hunterdon Central of the late ’90s and early 2000s, or any GMC team against the Shore Conference in Central Jersey Group 1, the South Rivers and Highland Parks versus the Keansburgs, Keyports and Asbury Parks of the world.
Those days are gone, but Bernards has some familiarity with its North 2, Group 2 finals opponent, the Lakeland Lancers. (You can hear that game on Central Jersey Sports Radio with pregame at 6:30 and kickoff at 7; click here to listen)
Bernards head coach Jon Simoneau is neighbors with Lakeland defensive coordinator Jared Luciani, and the two teams scrimmaged this year in the preseason. So each is intimately familiar with the other as they come full circle Friday night at Olcott Field.
Not a traditional powerhouse, you’d be forgiven if you never heard of Lakeland, or don’t know where they’re from. (They’re in Wanaque, which most New Jerseyans probably don’t know how to pronounce, let alone find on a map.)
That said, Bernards head coach Jon Simoneau knows what his team is up against, adding to that the fact that in the semifinals, the fifth-seeded Lancers knocked off the top-seed Caldwell, owner of the state’s longest active winning streak at 37 games.
Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Bernards head coach Jon Simoneau about his team, and their matchup with Lakeland in the finals: