“I didn’t want to stop playing football with these guys.” Simoneau says he knew his “calm, cool, collected” Mountaineers would win

Bernards head coach Jon Simoneau gets ready to talk to his team after a 23-17 OT win win over Lakeland in the North 2, Group 2 title game in Bernardsville on November 10, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

The Bernards football program had only played in two state sectional championship games before this year.

One ended in dramatic fashion after a mysterious take-a-knee call led to an overtime loss, and the other was a blowout.

So, it stood to reason, maybe by odds, or by the football gods, or some other force of nature that Bernards might finally come through and win that elusive title.

That, they did. Second-seed Bernards beat fifth-seed Lakeland 23-17 in overtime Friday night at Olcott Field, the final game on their own turf this season, and the last as Mountaineers for all the team’s seniors.

They shouldn’t have been here, had Caldwell not had its 37-game win streak snapped by Lakeland last week. But they got the game at home, and made it pay off.

It wasn’t easy, but no championship ever is. There were mistakes, to be sure, but as Simoneau says about this bunch, they were “cool, calm and collected.”

Click below to hear Dylan Allen’s postgame with Bernards head coach Jon Simoneau, presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Bernards WR Jack Morra (left) and OL Logan Ritchie (with trophy) celebrate with their North 2, Group 2 title hardware after beating Lakeland 23-17 in OT for the school’s first-ever state sectional title on November 10, 2023 in Bernardsville. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

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