KENILWORTH, NJ — Union County’s only undefeated football team saw its talented senior quarterback return from injury on Thursday, Oct. 13.
The results remained the same.
David Brearley High School football continued to impress. The Bears remained the only football team in Union County with a zero on the right side of its record.
Sparked by another stellar performance from three-year starter Matt Sims, who had a brief stay in the hospital and missed David Brearley’s game at Highland Park High School the week before, the Bears rolled to a convincing 44-6 Big Central Conference crossover triumph at Middlesex High School.
David Brearley improved to 7-0 for the first time since 2015, which is the last year the Bears played in a state championship game.
David Brearley is a heavy favorite on Friday, Oct. 21, at home, with the kickoff at Ward Field in Kenilworth at 6 p.m. against Dunellen High School (2-5), to finish its regular season perfect at 8-0.
The way the United Power Rankings are shaping up in North, Group 1, David Brearley found itself in the fourth overall slot going into its game at Middlesex. After winning at Middlesex and the other teams in the group playing, David Brearley is now at position No. 5 going into this weekend.
That would project the Bears to be a No. 3 seed in either North 1, Group 1 or North 2, Group 1, wherever they are placed.
A win against Dunellen could bump David Brearley back up to fourth in North, Group 1.
That means David Brearley would receive, most likely, a seed of No. 2, 3 or 4 in whichever section the state places them in. If David Brearley receives at least a fourth seed, the Bears would most likely be put in North 2, Group 1; then they would be at home for at least a first-round encounter.
As for Sims, he showed no ill effects from his infection. He scored a career-high five touchdowns, carrying the ball a total of 20 times for a game-leading 201 yards.
“Matt had an infection in his leg and was hospitalized for three days,” David Brearley head coach Scott Miller said. “He came back on Monday of last week, and we eased him into practice.
“Come game time, he was ready to go. He wasn’t at 100 percent, but 80 percent of Matt is just as good as 100 percent of a lot of players.”
Sims closed David Brearley drives in the first quarter on touchdown runs of 19, 11 and 6 yards as the Bears, thanks to 2-point conversions following all the scores, led comfortably at 24-0 entering the second quarter.
“Middlesex runs an eight-man front on defense, putting a lot of players in the box,” Miller said. “Our plan was to get on the edge. Matt had the ability to run, and our offensive line is starting to jell. Alex Chuley also provided key blocking from out of our backfield.”
Chuley, also a senior, gained 68 yards rushing on 11 carries.
“The kids really executed the plan we put in place,” Miller said. “We could not have asked for a better scenario.”
Standout senior receiver Brendan Fitzsimmons filled in at quarterback for Sims to carry out David Brearley’s production in its 32-0 shutout of Highland Park. Against Middlesex, Fitzsimmons hauled in two Sims passes for 31 yards.
Sims rushed for his final two scores in the second quarter, touchdowns covering 3 and 27 yards. That put David Brearley up 38-0 at intermission and allowed the second half to start in mercy-rule mode, which happens when there is a lead of at least 33 points.
Sims had a streak of 23 consecutive starts at quarterback for David Brearley snapped when he missed the Highland Park game.
“Matt has really developed as he’s gotten older,” Miller, a 1987 David Brearley Regional graduate and at the helm of the Bears since 2002, said. “He’s bigger, stronger and faster. He also plays baseball, so he works hard all year round.”
Sims has thrown for seven touchdowns and only one interception so far. He has completed 50-of-69 passes for 672 yards. His career totals so far show 130 completions in 210 attempts for 1,657 yards, 17 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.
Fitzsimmons has been Sims’ main target, leading David Brearley in receiving last year and this. Fitzsimmons caught 25 passes for 262 yards and four touchdowns a year ago and, so far this season, has 33 receptions for 479 yards and four more scores.
“Matt has a really good ability to throw the football,” Miller said. “In the last 20 years or so, Matt is toward the top of the list of players who have performed here.
“He’s also a great kid, which makes it a lot more enjoyable. He’s gifted on the field and off the field as well.”
Sims participated at a few camps over the summer and, according to Miller, schools came away with plenty of positive feedback.
“Sacred Heart and Pace really liked him,” Miller said. “Our task now is finding the right fit for him, a place where he can succeed on the field and in the classroom. Ideally his college position would be dual-threat quarterback.”
David Brearley had a streak of three straight shutouts snapped in the third quarter, when Middlesex scored on a 21-yard pass play from quarterback Jax Jarvis to receiver Jacob Platten.
David Brearley senior Michael Nwosu closed the game’s scoring with a 15-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“With our defense, what we did from the beginning of the season to about game three or four was to completely simplify everything,” Miller said. “We no longer were doing things we did in the past, like stunt the line a lot or move people around.
“We decided to simplify things so that our players could gain more confidence and just go out and play, as opposed to thinking about what we have to do.”
Miller cited the play of Sims and Fitzsimmons in the secondary as David Brearley’s safeties, both doing a good job of providing run support. Chuley and senior Ryan Fitzsimmons at end and senior Bruce Harms in the middle at linebacker have formed a unit opposing offenses have found it difficult to crack.
David Brearley has outscored the opposition 232-52, with four shutouts. The Bears have yielded only eight touchdowns in seven games.
“Overall, as a whole group, they’re really playing well,” Miller said of his defense. “I feel the kids are getting more comfortable, asking what to do. We’ve tried to keep it simple, and I think that’s the best thing we’ve done this year with that group.”
Miller said he feels David Brearley needs to complement its running game and provide someone other than Sims to help move the chains.
“Alex Chuley has been running a lot better for us the last couple of weeks,” Miller said. “We also need to sharpen our passing game a bit. I’m happy with our offensive line. We’ve been switching some guys in and out, and it seems to be working.”
Notes: David Brearley is winning by an average score of 33-7, among the best marks of any teams in Union County.
This is Miller’s 21st season at David Brearley. He has guided the team to the playoffs 14 of 19 times, so this will be the 15th. There were no playoffs in 2020 because of COVID-19.
The Bears also captured the Big Central Conference’s Freedom Gold Division championship outright with a perfect 4-0 record. David Brearley beat Spotswood, Roselle Park, Jonathan Dayton and Highland Park high schools in league play. Nonleague triumphs have come against Manville, South Hunterdon Regional and Middlesex high schools.
The only time Brearley’s offense was really slowed down was in its 14-0 home win against South Hunterdon Regional, with the Bears scoring a season-low two touchdowns.
David Brearley Bears, 7-0:
A-David Brearley 34, Manville 20
H-David Brearley 36, Spotswood 0
H-David Brearley 46, Roselle Park 26
A-David Brearley 26, Jonathan Dayton 0
H-David Brearley 14, South Hunterdon 0
A-David Brearley 32, Highland Park 0
A-David Brearley 44, Middlesex 6
Friday, Oct. 21, Dunellen, 6 p.m.
Head coach: Scott Miller
Section: North, Group 1
Conference: Big Central
Division: Freedom Gold (4-0, champs)
Points for: 232
Points against: 52