BERKELEY HEIGHTS – No team wants to start its season out at 0-5.
That’s what Hillside and Governor Livingston were out to avoid Saturday afternoon.
Just when it looked like the host Highlanders were on their way to a victory, the visiting Comets struck for a fourth-quarter touchdown to finally get on the scoreboard, pull to within seven and make things scary.
Then GL senior fullback Andrew Bruner put his head down and followed his blockers, specifically senior offensive linemen Michael DeMarco and DJ McHugh.
On a play called 33 Counter Trap, Bruner then looked up and found a huge hole in the middle of the field.
“It was all blocking,” Bruner said.
Then Bruner raced 67 yards – total – to the end zone to clinch GL’s first win of the season. It was Bruner’s fourth touchdown of the 2012 campaign, which certainly has a lot more life in it now for the Highlanders.
Ryan Jennings added a touchdown later in the fourth quarter as GL, snake-bitten in its first four games, rolled to a 28-7 triumph over Hillside in Mid-State 38 Conference-Mountain Division action at Frey Field.
GL is now 1-4 overall and 1-4 in the Mountain Division, while Hillside fell to 0-4 in the Mountain and 0-5 overall.
“We started off (the season) rough, but we battled all the way through this game,” said Bruner, who in the second half led all rushers with 92 yards on five carries and one touchdown.
The win was the first as a head coach for first-year GL mentor Gary Lubisco.
“We executed our game plan, which was holding the football, eating the clock, playing strong defensively and having solid special teams,” said Lubisco, who for the past 11 seasons was an assistant coach at Dunellen under head coach Dave DeNapoli. “Coach (Tom) Reynolds (the defensive coordinator) had the defense playing with everything in front of us.
“To hold Hillside to just seven points was tremendous. His defense was the key to our success.”
Bruner was one of four GL players to reach the end zone, including junior quarterback Pat Mahoney – on 60-yard run – and junior running back PJ Jamolawicz on a three-yard sprint, both in the first quarter. Jamolawicz was filling in for injured sophomore Alex Boyd.
The key score was Bruner’s, which answered Hillside’s only touchdown, which was a nifty, seven-yard run to the outside right by junior tailback Josh Wilkins. Hillside’s only score came on a first-and-goal with 6:28 left.
“At 14-7 I was a little nervous, but I never gave up,” Bruner said.
The play he scored on was third-and-three from his own 33, with five minutes remaining.
“When I looked up I saw clear field,” Bruner said.
“DeMarco kicked out unbelievably on the play,” Lubisco said. “It’s counter to a trap where you run at the guards and then wait for the guard and tackle to clear as the hole opens up.
“This is really Andrew’s first full season on varsity after being in and out. He came up big for us today.”
Jennings carried 10 times for 49 yards and his one touchdown in the second half. He dragged tacklers with him before he broke free of them en route to the end zone.
“Ryan’s our workhorse,” Lubisco said. “He just keeps plugging away.”
Hillside junior quarterback Joey Straile, one of three returning starters on offense for first-year head coach Kendall Ashford, had success throwing the ball in the second half. Straile completed 10-of-15 passes to five different receivers for 162 yards and one interception.
Catching five of those passes for 68 yards was junior wide receiver Luis Iheanacho.
Hillside will next host Voorhees next Saturday, with the Vikings 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain Division.
GL has a rare night home game next Friday at 7 against a red hot Johnson squad. The Crusaders of Clark have won two straight and are 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain Division.
Johnson stormed past visiting division foe Roselle 50-28 Friday night.
“They execute and can pass the ball as well,” Lubisco said. “They’re a scary team. Coach Reynolds has already begun to work on our defense. We’ll be ready.”
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-MOUNTAIN DIVISION GAME
AT GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON’S FREY FIELD
HILLSIDE (0-4, 0-5) 0 0 0 7 – 7
GOV. LIVINGSTON (1-4, 1-4) 14 0 0 14 – 28
GOV. LIVINGSTON – Pat Mahoney 60 run, Pat Mahoney kick
GOV. LIVINGSTON – PJ Jamolawicz 3 run, Pat Mahoney kick
HILLSIDE – Josh Wilkins 7 run, Jahaad Johnson kick
9 plays, 68 yards, 6:41 used
GOV. LIVINGSTON – Andrew Bruner 67 run, Pat Mahoney kick
3 plays, 74 yards, 1:36 used
GOV. LIVINGSTON – Ryan Jennings 18 run, Pat Mahoney kick
4 plays, 35 yards, 2:17 used
GL capitalized on a turnover – an interception by Clay Hubinger.