BERNARDSVILLE, NJ - After experiencing several growing pains with its youngest varsity roster in many years, the Bernards football team found its way into the win column for the first time Thursday night.
And game-breaking sophomore Joey Billotti led the way.
The 10th-grade slotback broke three long touchdown runs and rushed for more than 250 yards to highlight Bernards' 35-14 victory over New Providence.
After New Providence had closed to within a touchdown on a 16-yard TD pass with 9:26 left in the first half, Bernards flashed the best of its offensive weapons in a brief but diverse four-play drive. Starting at their 37, the Mountaineers advanced the ball quickly, with freshman Cookie Desiderio turning the corner wide right for 13 yards to the 50, senior quarterback Lofton Hoover gaining 5 on a bootleg, Billotti running 42 yards around left end on a reverse play all the way down to the New Providence 3-yard line, then Desiderio finishing the drive with a 3-yard TD run over right guard with 8:03 left. Freshman Steven Lopez' extra point gave Bernards a 21-7 lead.
Bernards had opened a 14-0 lead on a pair of long TD runs in the first quarter. Billotti raced 70 yards for a TD for the first Mountaineer score. Then, after PJ Chisolm intercepted a Pioneer pass to return possession to Bernards, Hoover scampered 50 yards with a keeper for a TD and a 14-0 lead.
Billotti's breathtaking speed was on display in the second half, too. With 2:22 left in the third quarter, he went in motion from left to right on a third-and-eight play from the Bernards 15-yard line, took an inside handoff, turned the corner and left the entire New Providence secondary far behind in his wake on an 85-yard TD.
Billotti's final TD on the second play of the fourth quarter was nearly a miscue: On a reverse play, he took a handoff, fumbled the ball in the backfield, but then picked up the bounce that came right back into his arms in stride, and he proceeded to dash 54 yards down the left sideline to extend the Mountaineer lead to 35-7. The sophomore speedster unofficially had 261 yards on six carries from scrimmage.