Brearley Bears lifted by trio of returning starters on both sides of the ball

Photo Courtesy of Gene Nann
Brearley head coach Scott Miller advises his players.

KENILWORTH, NJ — Players with experience on this year’s Brearley High School football team include senior running back and linebacker Quinn Lonergan, junior guard and linebacker Bruce Harms, and junior quarterback and safety Matt Sims.

They are the lone returning starters on both sides of the ball.

“Matt is pretty good,” head coach Scott Miller said. “He runs well and is the best throwing quarterback we’ve had here in a long time. We have a few wide receivers who can catch the ball, so our prospects of throwing the ball are a lot better.

“Quinn is a three-year starter and the leader of our defense. He’s the quarterback on that side of the ball, keeping people lined up and making sure they know what to do,” he continued. “Bruce is real tough, a hard-working kid who gives everything he has.”

Because Miller’s numbers are low this season — he reported just 31 players — he had Brearley compete in only one scrimmage event, which included Metuchen and Shore at Brearley’s Ward Field.

The Bears did not have a traditional camp-ending game-scrimmage prior to their Sept. 2 season opener at home vs. Johnson.

“For us the tri-scrimmage went pretty well,” Miller said. “It went better than we thought it would.

“With just 31 we’re up against it, very thin and really have no backups. I didn’t want to have any more scrimmages, because I just wanted to get to the season,” he continued. “We’re used to having 45 to 50 kids. This is different. It’s not what we’re used to.”

Brearley has a nine-game schedule that includes five home dates at Ward Field, all with 6 p.m. kickoffs.

“We started that last year and that includes for boys soccer and basketball,” Miller, who is also Brearley’s longtime athletic director, said of the earlier start time. “The kids get out of school at 3 p.m. and there’s no reason for them to sit around for four hours.

“They’re supposed to be students first, so this gets them home earlier. Even on a Friday night during the season, they still have practice the next day. The game is over by 8:30 and they’re home by 9 p.m.”

Brearley is opening on the Thursday before Labor Day because of the holiday weekend. The Bears have one other home game scheduled to be played on a Thursday, which is vs. Dunellen on Oct. 21.

“Because there aren’t enough officiating crews (and) there are too many Friday-night games, we were given the option, voluntarily, of playing Thursday or Saturday night,” Miller said. “We agreed to play that week on Thursday night.

“It works out well. That will be our senior night,” he added.

Brearley is also scheduled to play on Sept. 11. It will be the second game of the season for the Bears, with a 1 p.m. Saturday kickoff at Middlesex County Group 2 school Spotswood.

Twenty years ago, Miller was in his last season as an assistant coach on Bob Taylor’s staff at Johnson. Taylor had been Miller’s head coach when Miller played at Brearley Regional in the mid-1980s.

“It was like a surreal feeling, almost kind of like everything stopped,” Miller recalled of Sept. 11, 2001. “This affected our communities and our kids, but we’re resilient. Just like this past year going through COVID, we’re resilient and we’ll fight back.

“It was eerie that day,” Miller continued. “You thought you were going to have football practice and then it was canceled. It was then canceled the next day.”

Although the National Football League and Major League Baseball were put on hold, high school athletics, including football the ensuing weekend, carried on in New Jersey.

“It was a scary day in this country and in this area,” Miller said. “We had families that lost people, lost fathers, lost mothers that worked there” in the World Trade Center. “I was much younger then. You don’t really think about it until you see the effects of it. It really puts things in perspective.

“You’re so geared up in high school football and then something like that turns out to be a lot bigger than you,” he added.
More recently, as Brearley’s athletic director, Miller had to give the news to his spring coaches that there would not be a season in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I had to tell the coaches no season,” Miller said, adding that this was especially difficult for senior athletes. “If all you did was play baseball, softball or track and field, your high school career was over. It’s sobering and puts things in perspective.

“When you have something like 9/11 or COVID, you realize there are other things out there. Now that I’m older, I think more and realize athletics is not the end of the world and try to make things a little more enjoyable,” he continued. “Sure, we all still want to win, but there are other things that are important.”

Miller is still enjoying the challenge of entering season No. 20.

Miller has guided Brearley to 131 wins in 13 playoff seasons, three state championship games and the program’s first state title since 1991, when the 2006 squad became the first team in Union County history to finish 12-0.

There have been good years and lean years. Is Miller considering calling it quits any time soon? From what he feels right now, probably not.

“It’s definitely gone fast,” Miller said. “There have been a lot of great kids and families.

“I’ve always said the minute I lose that spark and energy I will stop coaching. Right now I still have it,” he continued. “To be at a Group 1 school this long in this day and age is not an easy task. You don’t know half the time what you can run at practice if you don’t know what you have.”

According to Miller, the Brearley community has “great kids” who are hardworking.

“I still love doing it and have young coaches with me, guys who played for me, and I’m excited to be around them. I have no plans of stopping,” Miller said. “Every year is a challenge and something that I embrace and look forward to. I like seeing what we have and then trying to put our best product out and see how many games we can win. I look forward to this season and hope it’s unscathed concerning COVID.

“When the season is over, I’m almost like in a funk for a couple of weeks. All of a sudden everything stops — no film and no meetings. There’s a lull of depression,” he continued. “I still get butterflies before games. Right now, I will coach if I can until I lose that urge. When that happens, I will know it’s time to get out.”

Sept. 2 vs. Johnson, 6 p.m.
Sept. 11 at Spotswood, 1 p.m.
Sept. 17 vs. Roselle Park, 6 p.m.
Sept. 24 at Middlesex, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 at New Providence, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 vs. Bernards, 6 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Bound Brook, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 vs. Dunellen, 6 p.m.
Oct. 29 vs. Dayton, 6 p.m.
Head coach: Scott Miller, 20th season

G Bruce Harms, junior (6-0, 195)
T Mike Cascarano, senior (6-0, 240)
C Joe Cipriano, junior (5-10, 200)
G Ryan Fitzsimmons, junior (5-10, 185)
TE Mike Kollarick, sophomore (6-1, 175)
TE Kristian Janeczko, sophomore (5-11, 170)
TE Alex Chuley, junior (6-2, 175)
QB Matt Sims, junior (5-11, 175)
RB Quinn Lonergan, senior (5-9, 175)
WR Connor Hannon, sophomore (6-1, 165)
WR Brendan Fitzsimmons, junior (5-10, 160)
Returning starters (3): Harms, Sims and Lonergan.

E Alex Chuley, junior (6-2, 175)
T Mike Cascarano, senior (6-0, 240)
T Joe Cipriano, junior (5-10, 200)
E Ryan Fitzsimmons, junior (5-10, 185)
LB Quinn Lonergan, senior (5-9, 175)
LB Bruce Harms, junior (6-0, 195)
LB Kristian Janeczko, sophomore (5-11, 170)
CB Brendan Fitzsimmons, junior (5-10, 160)
S Matt Sims, junior (5-11. 175)
S Connor Hannon, sophomore (6-1, 165)
CB Riley Caburis, junior (5-10, 160)
P Quinn Lonergan, senior (5-9, 175)
Returning starters (3): Lonergan, Harms and Sims.

Oct. 2 (A): West Essex 33, Brearley 8
Oct. 9 (H): Brearley 44, Dayton 7
Oct. 16 (H): Brearley 56, Roselle Park 14
Oct. 23 (A): Brearley 40, Dunellen 0
Nov. 7 (H): Brearley 32, Kinnelon 21
Nov. 13 (A): New Providence 21, Brearley 20 (OT)
Nov. 20 (H): Brearley 44, Bound Brook 28
Nov. 25 (H): Brearley 40, Metuchen 0
Head coach: Scott Miller, 19th season
Section: North, Group 1
Conference: Big Central
Division: 1B
Record: 6-2
Home: 5-0
Away: 1-2
Points for: 284
Points against: 124
Shutouts: 2
Overtime: 0-1