Mountain Lakes defeated Brearley, 16-6, in the North Jersey Section 1 Group 1 final to advance next week to the group semifinals against Weequahic. All the scoring was in the first half and Mountain Lakes was led by the defense that bent, but didn’t break.
First Quarter: Brearley ran three plays and looked as if they were going to go for it on fourth down on their 31, but quick-kicked a punt to the Mountain Lakes 20. The Herd ran an outstanding drive, going twelve plays for a 6-yard touchdown run by Jordan Hernando and Jimmy Elliott ran into the end zone for the 2-point conversion, putting Lakes up, 8-0. The two big runs on the drive were by Nico Dunn for 13 and 12 yards. Brearley came back on a methodical drive of seventeen plays, consuming almost nine minutes with much of it on the ground, going three minutes into the second quarter. The Bears got on the board with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Matt Simms to Brendan Fitzsimmons. Brearley went for two points and Mountain Lakes intercepted in the end zone to leave the Herd in front, 8-6.
Second Quarter: The Herd answered with a 12-play drive, scoring when Ben Miniter found Gavin Ananian for a 45-yard touchdown pass to put them up, 16-6. There was nothing fancy on the drive and Miniter’s 12-yard run being the biggest play before the touchdown. Brearley drove into Mountain Lakes territory, but turned the ball over on downs. Shortly after that, Sims had a nice punt return to the Lakes 27. After three incomplete passes, Brearley passed on fourth down and the Mountain Lakes defender was called for interference, giving Brearley the ball on the 13 with three seconds remaining. Their field goal attempt was blocked by Mountain Lakes.
Third Quarter: Aidan Malnati returned the second half kickoff for Mountain Lakes to the Brearley 35, but the Herd could not get anything going and turned the ball over on downs. Brearley went seven minutes on their following drive with a Sims to Ryley Caburis pass going 28 yards to the 18. A fourth down pass from Sims to Fitzsimmons went to the 8 and was good enough for the first down. Many Mountain Lakes supporters thought it was a bad call, but somebody showed me a picture and the call was the right one. Brearley couldn’t do any more and a fourth down run by Fitzsimmons lost 3 yards on a Dunn tackle.
Fourth Quarter: A Mountain Lakes punt gave Brearley the ball on the Lakes 42 and two Sims runs of 10 yards each brought the ball to the 18, but their fourth down pass was incomplete. Mountain Lakes was forced to punt and Justin Brennfleck booted it 72 yards to the 4-yard line. Sims immediately gained 17 yards to the 21 and they picked up two more first downs, but the drive stalled and Mountain Lakes took over with three minutes left. After gaining a first down, they took a knee and ran out the clock.
Comments: Mountain Lakes started with two efficient drives to get all their points. It was interesting that they went for two points after each touchdown; head coach Darrell Fusco said Brearley always went for two and they did not want to get into a situation where they were down by a score of 8-7 or 16-14. He said they had several two-point plays “ready to go.” He also said they take pride in being a defensive team. They worked on eliminating long runs by Matt Sims and taking away the Brendan Fityzsimmons receiving threat. Sims gained his yardage, but there was only one run of more than 10 yards.
Brearley had their opportunities. As mentioned earlier, the Mountain Lakes defense bent, but didn’t break. But a Brearley fan can think about the lost opportunities. Their first two drives of the second half went inside the 20. Their first was first-and-goal on the 8, but their fourth-down run only made it to the 2. Their second drive made it to the 11, but that was as far as they went. They also had another drive into Mountain Lakes territory plus the blocked field goal at the end of the first half. Sims rushed for 168 yards on 37 carries and was 7-16-66-1 passing. The longest run by Sims was 17 yards and three went 10; he consistently gained yards, but no long ones. That was what Mountain Lakes wanted to accomplish.