Undefeated Mountaineers Setting Team and Individual Marks in 2023
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – There were only four undefeated teams in the Big Central Conference at the start of Week 8 play on Thursday night. Bernards (8-0) is one of those teams. The Mountaineers have defeated the likes of arch-rivals Hillside (28-12) and Delaware Valley (30-0) en route to its fourth straight BCC divisional title. Bernards is also making history by setting team and individual marks in 2023.
Two weeks ago, this year’s Mountaineers squad ranked 16th all-time in scoring at Bernards High School. Last week, the team moved up in the rankings following its 38-14 victory over New Providence at Lieder Field. The Mountaineers moved up to 11th all-time with 302 points. Bernards have outscored its foes by a margin of 302-52, or an average of about 38-7.
Averaging nearly 38 points per game, Bernards has scored at least 28 points in each of its games. The Mountaineers have scored at least 30 points on 7 occasions, and at least 38 points on five including four 40-point games. Bernards has tallied 1,330 yards on the ground and 972 yards in the air.
On defense, the Mountaineers have been just as superb. Bernards has allowed no more than 7 points in six of its games including two shutouts. Senior David Brothers, who tied the modern-day school record for sacks in a season with 7 in the team’s first 6 games, now has tallied a team-leading 10 sacks. Brothers also leads the team in total tackles with 37, solo tackles with 16, tackles for loss with 12, and forced fumbles with 2.
Brothers set the modern-day school record at Bernards for sacks in a game with 4 in the victory over Delaware Valley on September 23, 2023. Brothers has at least one sack in four straight games and 5 out of his last 6. Returning to the offensive side of the ball, senior QB Connor Laverty has completed 65 of 106 passes for 855 yards and 9 TDs versus only one interception through 8 games.
Laverty has also contributed to the ground game with 34 carries for another 267 yards and another 9 TDs. Laverty has averaged 13.2 yards per completion and 7.9 yards per rush. Sophomore Logan Stevens sparks the Mountaineers’ ground game with 50 carries for 429 yards, or about 8.6 yards per carry along with 6 TDs. Stevens has also caught 10 passes for another 118 yards and a TD.
Senior Jake Caldwell has followed in the footsteps of his older brother and 2021 graduate, Pat Caldwell. Caldwell leads the team in receiving with 19 receptions for 231 yards and 2 TDs. Caldwell has also rushed 12 times for another 93 yards and two scores. Also contributing on special teams and defense, Caldwell has 5 kickoff returns for 81 yards and 5 punt returns for another 46 yards while leading the Mountaineers with two interceptions.
This year’s Bernards squad is a solid combination of youth and experience. Not only do you have the likes of veterans such as Brothers, Laverty, and Caldwell setting the standard, but also youngsters such as Stevens and freshman RB Patrick Carlisle. Carlisle ranks third on the team in rushing yards with 266 on 48 carries or 5.5 yards per carry along with 7 TDs. Another freshman, Sean Arcelay has contributed in all three phases of the game.
Arcelay has a kickoff return of 33 yards and a punt return of 24 yards. In addition, Arcelay has caught 2 passes for 41 yards and compiled 4 total tackles on defense. Sophomore QB Casey Hoeckle has also contributed by completing 7 of 10 passes for 117 yards and 4 TDs in three games against South River, North Plainfield, and Bound Brook. Junior Terrence Hanratty is another underclassman contributor.
Hanratty has rushed 22 times for 156 yards and 3 TDs while catching a pass for another 35 yards on offense. He also has made 7 total tackles on defense. Another junior, Max Austin, has the most TD receptions with 3 while making 11 catches for 210 yards. Austin has also collected 10 total tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception on defense.
In the kicking game, the Mountaineers have a trio that has contributed this season. Senior Simon Bramwit has made all 10 of his extra-point attempts. Junior placekicker Jonas Gonzalez has made all four of his field goal attempts including a season-long of 39 yards in the win over Delaware Valley. Sophomore Noah Ochab is another talented youngster that has contributed by making 4 of 5 extra point attempts along with his only field goal attempt of 26 yards.
The team’s efforts this season led to a milestone for head coach Jon Simoneau. With the victory at Hillside in Week 1, Simoneau won his 100th career game. Bernards also remains one of the most formidable programs in Group 2 on the state level. The Mountaineers, which are currently ranked 4th in the North Jersey Group 2 super section, have won at least 8 games in each of the last 6 years and won at least 7 games in 11 of the past 12 seasons.
The North Jersey Group 2 super section is loaded with strong teams. Bernards is one of four undefeated teams in the section behind the likes of top-ranked Westwood (7-0), Caldwell (7-0), and Rutherford (7-0). Westwood and Caldwell met in the North Jersey Group 2 Regional Championship at Franklin High School a year ago with Caldwell winning 13-7 en route to the state title.
Westwood played another Big Central school in South Plainfield in a Week 0 match-up that was part of the Super Football Conference’s Jim Grasso Kickoff Classic. The Cardinals rolled to a 44-12 victory. Meanwhile, Rutherford of the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference’s Colonial Division is taking on Park Ridge for the overall NJIC Championship on Friday night in Park Ridge.
The Bernards football coaching staff has ties to Middlesex County. Not only is Simoneau a graduate of J.F. Kennedy of Iselin, but also his assistant coach and offensive coordinator, Dave Carmon, and JV coach, Ryan McCullough. The Mountaineers round out their regular season on Saturday with a trip to Berkeley Heights for a BCC crossover contest against Governor Livingston. Both teams have played New Providence, North Plainfield, and South River.
Governor Livingston is 2-1 versus those teams with victories over North Plainfield (2-0) and South River (35-6). Bernards is 3-0 versus those same three teams including its 24-point victory at New Providence a week ago. The Mountaineers have outscored the Pioneers, Canucks, and Rams by a margin of 120-21. Bernards have won the previous three meetings between the two schools including a 42-0 win at Olcott Field last year.