KENILWORTH – Just when the Brearley football team knew it was in for one heck of a battle with visiting Belvidere – the County Seaters answered Brearley’s first score with two of their own – it took an effort by one of the game’s best players to set things right.
Brearley senior David Eskin, a starter since his freshman season, had done many positive things on the football field the past three years.
However, there was one thing he had never done for the Bears before.
That was bringing back a kickoff for six points.
Early in the second quarter with his team now trailing by five, Eskin fielded a Belvidere kickoff from his 20 and began sprinting up the middle of the field.
Eskin quickly ran through a big hole and then continued down the middle of the field, racing past every Belvidere defender trying to grab a hold of him.
Eskin raced, untouched, all the way into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. It was the first time he ever returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
More importantly, the six-point sprint from one end of the field to the other gave Brearley the lead for good.
Also scoring twice on short runs for the Bears was junior quarterback Sebastian Montesdeoca as Brearley came away with a hard-fought 27-22 Mid-State 38 Conference-Valley Division season-opening triumph at Ward Field.
“After I caught the ball I was able to jump over a defender and then the wedge was set perfectly,” Eskin said. “I saw the hole and then it was a foot race from there.”
Eskin, who carried 16 times for 46 yards, gave Brearley the lead back for good at 13-12 with his kickoff return.
“We came in knowing we had to make something happen on special teams,” Eskin said.
Montesdeoca carred the ball 20 times for 84 yards and scored Brearley’s final two touchdowns on one-yard runs.
“This was a fist fight that went down to the last man standing,” Montesdeoca said. “We knew that our defense had to step up after they scored and then our offense powered it in.”
Brearley’s first drive of the season resulted in seven points, with the Bears moving the chains behind the running of Eskin and Montesdeoca, thrown in with a pass completion of 12 yards to senior wide receiver Edward Palmadessa. Eskin scored on an eight-yard run up the middle on first-and-goal.
Belvidere answered on its second possession, with Belvidere senior running back Robert Merle capping a seven-play, 64-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run.
Then after Brearley was held to a three-and-out, Merle broke through a hole on the first play of Belvidere’s next drive and scored on a 55-yard run to put the County Seaters ahead 12-7.
Brearley never allowed Belvidere to enjoy that momentum and its only lead of the game with Eskin answering with his kickoff return.
Brearley then marched 73 yards in nine plays to score its third touchdown late in the first half, increasing its lead to 21-12.
Belvidere answered with a 37-yard field goal by Kenny Kane on the final play of the first half to pull to within 21-15.
Brearley’s first drive of the second half took nearly nine minutes off the clock and resulted in the Bears moving the ball 63 yards in 15 plays. A key play on the drive was an 18-yard pass Montesdeoca completed to senior tight end Joseph Locorriere, which gave Brearley a first down at the Belvidere 15.
“This was a huge win for us,” Montesdeoca said.
Brearley is 1-0 for the first time since 2011 and next week at South Hunterdon will attempt to go 2-0 for the first time since that same season.
“This was Brearley playing smash mouth football,” Eskin said.
Merle led all rushers with 103 yards on 22 carries He carried the ball 20 times for 93 yards in the first 24 minutes.
Merle’s third touchdown came on a 60-yard pass completion with 5:51 left in the fourth quarter. He caught a pass from senior quarterback Cody Clineball at the Brearley 40 and was then able to race down the right sideline into the end zone.
It was an odd, three-play scoring drive that included two incomplete passes and an offsides call on the Belvidere offense.
Brearley was able to run out the clock with its next drive, with Montesdeoca gaining the possession’s third first down at the Belvidere 30 and then the final one on a 22-yard run to the six.
Belvidere outgained Brearley 154-76 in the first half, rushing for 142 yards and passing for 12, with Brearley gaining 51 on the ground and 25 in the air.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-VALLEY DIVISION GAME
AT WARD FIELD IN KENILWORTH
BELVIDERE (0-1, 0-1) 6 9 0 7 – 22
BREARLEY (1-0, 1-0) 7 14 6 0 – 27
Brearley – David Eskin 8 run, David Eskin kick, (Brearley 7-0)
12 plays, 51 yards, 6:41 used
Belvidere – Robert Merle 16 run, kick failed, (Brearley 7-6)
7 plays, 64 yards, 3:22 used
Belvidere – Robert Merle 55 run, pass failed, (Belvidere 12-7)
1 play, 55 yards, :13 used
Brearley – David Eskin 80 kickoff return, Sebastian Montesdeoca run, (Brearley 15-12)
Brearley – Sebastian Montesdeoca 1 run, kick failed, (Brearley 21-12)
9 plays, 73 yards, 4:43 used
Belvidere – FG Kenny Kane 37, (Brearley 21-15)
9 plays, from own 30 to Brearley 20, 2:20 used
Brearley – Sebastian Montesdeoca 1 run, run failed, (Brearley 27-15)
15 plays, 63 yards, 8:48 used
Belvidere – Robert Merle 60 pass from Cody Clinebell, Kenny Kane kick, (Brearley 27-22)
3 plays, 55 yards, :30 used
UNION COUNTY SCOREBOARD
FOR FRIDAY NIGHT, SEPT. 12
Brearley 27, Belvidere 22 – at Brearley
Bernards 14, Johnson 7 – at Bernards
Cranford 45, Warren Hills 6 – at Cranford
Elizabeth 51, Watchung Hills 21 – at Elizabeth
Voorhees 42, Gov. Livingston 24 – at GL
Linden 19, Immaculata 6 – at Immaculata
New Providence 40, South Hunterdon 34 – at New Providence
Phillipsburg 48, Union 6 – at Phillipsburg