ROSELLE PARK – On offense you want to present the element of surprise as much as you can, you know, keep the opposition off balance.
In football, that means being equally effective running and throwing the ball.
Brearley had a different kind of balance Friday night. The strategy consisted of handing the ball off to senior running back Khalid Bonnet.
Bonnet – with a tough-to-bring-down 5-9, 235-pound frame – ran with a continued burst up the middle, to his left and to his right. It didn’t matter.
Wherever he saw the hole – and there were plenty of them provided by the Brearley offensive line – he carried the ball through.
Bonnet was never stopped for a loss. Even on the rare play when he lost possession of the ball in the first half, he still gained a yard and Brearley recovered to hold on.
Bonnet’s biggest gain was for 20 yards in the second half. He kept on chipping away – three yards here, four yards there, to the outside for six and another Brearley first down.
Bonnet, who scored all of his team’s touchdowns, just couldn’t be contained.
The returning two-year varsity starter – who last year rushed for over 1,200 yards – turned in a spectacular performance, carrying the ball 36 times for 184 yards and a career-high six touchdowns to lead Brearley past undefeated arch rival Roselle Park 40-21 in Friday night’s Mid-State 38 Conference-Union Division clash at Herm Shaw field.
Brearley won its second straight to improve to 2-2 overall and is now 2-1 in the Union Division. Roselle Park slipped to 4-1 overall and is now 3-1 in the Union Division.
“My line blocked really well,” Bonnet said. “We all did our jobs. We all did what we were supposed to do.”
Brearley’s line includes returning starters Michael Ceceri and Kairi Days at tackle, both are seniors, and junior Justin O’Rourke at center. There is also junior Alex O’Brien and senior Will Nazario at guard and senior Brian Lesniewski at tight end.
Brearley junior wide receiver Christopher Keith caught a screen pass on the right side that he – after breaking a tackle – turned into a 31-yard gain during Brearley’s second scoring drive.
Bonnet had 17 carries for 74 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, with Brearley leading 21-7 at intermission. The Bears scored touchdowns all three times they had the ball in the first half.
Bonnet carried 19 times for 110 yards and three more TDs in the second half.
“When he gets his pads square, he’s tough to stop,” said Brearley head coach Scott Miller, who in this game went against his pre-season strategy of not wanting to give one guy the ball 30 times and having teams try to key on just that one player.
Brearley led 14-0 before Roselle Park scored its first touchdown and then led by two touchdowns again in the second quarter when they went ahead 21-7.
Roselle Park tied the game at 21-21 after scoring on its first two possessions of the second half.
Following a punt to the Brearley 40 that Michael Ramos returned to the Roselle Park 43, Brearley regained the lead for good by scoring on the first play of the fourth quarter. A three-yard touchdown run by Bonnet – the extra point was blocked by Roselle Park senior Enzo Brutus – put Brearley ahead again 27-21.
Brearley capitalized on turnovers to score its final two touchdowns. The Bears scored the game’s final 19 points unanswered.
“Once we got the lead again in the second half we wanted to milk the clock and just continue to give Khalid the ball,” Miller said. “In the first half we tried to mix it up.
“We wanted to throw the ball and try to make Roselle Park feel uncomfortable on defense.”
Ramos completed two of three passes (receptions by sophomore Sean Boyars and by senior Nick Heuschkel) for 21 yards on Brearley’s initial drive, with Bonnet starting off with five carries for 30 yards and his first score.
Ramos finished with 12 times for 63 yards.
After Bonnet’s fourth touchdown put Brearley back up and by six, the Bears got the ball back two plays later when freshman linebacker Michael Dotro recovered fumble on a botched Roselle Park exchange.
Bonnet capped Brearley’s ensuing drive – which included a huge four-yard, first down run made on fourth down by junior running back Joe Caterina on a pitch left (he almost dropped the ball initially) and a perfect 24-yard field goal by Antonino Principato that Miller took off the board after Roselle Park was called for roughing the holder – with a three-yard touchdown run with 7:23 to go.
“It was really tough trying to stop him,” Roselle Park head coach Terry Hanratty said.
Roselle Park was led on the ground by senior running back Dylan Camilo, who finished with 92 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries.
Junior quarterback Patrick Gergich completed two of seven passes for 52 yards and one touchdown in the first half, including a 24-yard TD toss to Camilo.
Gergich tried to get the ball deep to Brutus, who was covered quite well by Brearley defensive backs Nick Heuschkel, a senior, and Nazeer Elias, a freshman. Brutus did have one catch for a 52-yard gain to the Brearley one-yard line that continued Roselle Park’s second scoring drive.
“Roselle Park is good and they are going to win plenty of more games,” Miller said. “We just played really well.
“Taking advantage of their turnovers was huge. We finally put it all together.”
Roselle Park came back from two 14-point deficits (14-0 and 21-7) to tie the game at 21-21 and – in addition to having a chance to take the lead when down by six – had one possession to go ahead when the game was tied for the only time.
“We fumbled the ball,” Hanratty said, referring to after Brearley went ahead 27-21. “After we blocked the extra point I thought we were going to score again and take the lead.
“I was proud of the way our kids came out of the locker room at halftime. We were humbled and now we need to learn how to come back from adversity.
“Brearley lost to Belvidere, but came out fighting against us. This was a great lesson for us. I’m really excited to see how we now come back from this.”
Roselle Park is next at defending Union Division champion Bound Brook next Friday night. Bound Brook lost at Belvidere 14-12 Friday night.
That means Roselle Park and Belvidere are tied for first place in the Union Division at 3-1, while Bound Brook, Manville and Brearley are next at 2-1.
NOTES: Caterina had the game’s only interception, which came on the first play of Roselle Park’s fifth second-half possession.
All three Roselle Park turnovers came in the second half. Brearley did not turn the ball over.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-UNION DIVISION
Brearley (2-2, 2-1) 07 14 00 19 – 40
Roselle Park (4-1, 3-1) 00 07 14 00 – 21
Brearley – Khalid Bonnet 4 run, Antonino Principato kick (B 7-0)
11 plays, 68 yards, 5:01 used
Brearley – Khalid Bonnet 2 run, Antonino Principato kick (B 14-0)
11 plays, 62 yards, 5:12 used
Roselle Park – Dylan Camilo 24 pass from Patrick Gergich,
Patrick Gergich kick (B 14-7)
5 plays, 76 yards, 3:05 used
Brearley – Khalid Bonnet 3 run, Antonino Principato kick (B 21-7)
12 plays, 60 yards, 5:57 used
Roselle Park – Dylan Camilo 1 run, Patrick Gergich kick (B 21-14)
5 plays, 82 yards, 2:21 used
Roselle Park – Abel Crespo 2 run, Patrick Gergich kick (21-21)
3 plays, 45 yards, 1:16 used
Brearley – Khalid Bonnet 3 run, kick failed (B 27-21)
4 plays, 43 yards, 1:20 used
Brearley – Khalid Bonnet 3 run, pass failed (B 33-21)
8 plays, 24 yards, 3:42 used
Brearley capitalized on a turnover, a fumble recovery by Michael Dotro.
Brearley – Khalid Bonnet 3 run, Antonino Principato kick (B 40-21)
5 plays, 32 yards, 2:49 used
Brearley capitalized on a turnover, a strip and fumble recovery by Jonathan Braun.