Bernards’ Will Kenny not only had the skill-set to make the biggest tackle of the night, he had plenty of inspiration.
“One of our senior defensemen (Griffin MacPartland) went down with an injury in the third quarter and I told the team we had to pick it up. We had to win this game for him,” said Kenny, a senior linebacker. “He would do the same for us.”
Facing a 4th-and-goal with 41 seconds remaining and New Providence on the 4-yard line trailing by seven, Kenny launched himself into the backfield and sacked New Providence quarterback Jack Harvey to seal a 14-7 Bernards victory that gave the Somerset school the Mid-State 38 Union Division championship Friday night before a near capacity crowd at Lieder Field in New Providence.
The title is the third straight conference championship for Bernards (4-1) after winning the Union Division last year and the Hills Division crown in 2011.
When New Providence played at Bernards in a battle of 4-0 teams last year, the Mountaineers claimed a 42-3 decision to earn the Union Division crown. New Providence claimed the Union Division title in 2011.
“It hurt a lot to have to leave the game but this means so much to us as a team to battle back and win it,” said MacPartland, who was on crutches after the game.
After a scoreless first quarter, Bernards broke through when junior quarterback Tyler Baum connected with junior Jordan Tantleff for a 48-yard touchdown pass with just 35 seconds remaining in the half.
Bernards controlled play in the half, holding possession for 14 minutes over the first two quarters.
“That’s always one of our goals to control the ball and keep it moving,” said Baum, who was 17 of 24 for 152 yards. “It’s a huge rivalry and a huge win for us.”
New Providence did a much better job of dictating pace in the second half as it mounted a 10-play drive, but eventually had to punt with 6:23 left in the third.
On New Providence’s next possession, Bernards sophomore Sebastian Sanchez intercepted Bryan Sherman on the New Providence eight yard line putting the Mountaineers back in business.
Four plays later, Robert Schaufler plunged in from six yards out for Bernards’ second score.
New Providence answered with an 18-play drive in the fourth quarter and finally found the end zone when C.J. Kliesch scored from seven yards out with 4:04 left in the game.
New Providence then stopped Bernards and got the ball back with 2:35 left. After a big 28 yard pass from Harvey to Joseph Ciarrocca put the ball 10 yards out.
“We’re not going to make excuses,” said New Providence coach Joe Corolla. “We turned the ball over too many times and you can’t do that. We fought back and we’ll keep fighting for the rest of this season.”
New Providence, which entered the game having scored 168 points this season, will play at Bound Brook on Friday looking to get back to its winning ways.
Bernards will face another Union County foe on the road when it plays at Roselle Park on Friday.
“Its great to win our third straight title,” said Kenny. “It’s a real emotional victory and we won’t soon forget it.”
B – Tantleff 48 pass from Baum (DeLeon kick)B – Schaufler 3 run (DeLeon kick)
NP – Kliesch 39 run (Gelormini kick)
RUSHING: B- Baum 10-35. NP- Harvey 21-70, Kliesch 11-50, McCann 5-40.
PASSING: B- Baum 17-24-1-152. NP- Harvey 6-12-0-70, Sherman, 0-1
RECEIVING: B – Tantleff 2-60. NP – Kliesch 3-32.