BERNARDSVILLE, NJ -- The Bernards football team, which defeated Delaware Valley in the regular season, will need to do so again in order to advance in the playoffs.
The Mountaineers (7-1) will host the Terriers (6-2) Friday night in the first round of the Central Jersey, Group 2 playoffs, four weeks after defeating Del Val, 32-7.
Since losing to Hillside on opening day, Bernards has won its last seven consecutive games, but the Mountaineers had more trouble with Delaware Valley than that final score would indicate. In fact, Del Val had a 7-0 lead before Bernards scored two touchdowns in the final 1:20 of the first half.
Junior quarterback Teddy Gouldin finished with four touchdown passes and 190 yards through the air, completing 12 of 16 passes. He also ran for a touchdown. All four of Gouldin's TD passes came in the span of less than one full quarter.
On the season, Gouldin has passed for 1,569 yards with 19 TD passes, eight interceptions and a 66.4 completion percentage. Four different Mountaineers have caught at least four TD passes. Senior Joey Billotti, who has 34 receptions for 19.3 yards per catch, has six TD receptions. Lucas Ritchie, Jackson Tantleff and A.J. Mino have caught four TD passes apiece.
Although Bernards' offense has had the most notable impact passing the ball this season, the Mountaineers might need to establish the run on a cold and windy night. Sophomore Mike Leanza has rushed for eight touchdowns and 365 yards (4.4 per carry) to lead Bernards in both categories. Gouldin, who has rushed for five TDs, can also spark the running game, and Billotti, at slotback, is a threat on end-around plays with his blazing speed.
On defense, junior middle linebacker Lucas Burns has been credited with 122 tackles, unofficially one of the highest totals in the state. Linebacker Gavin Chieff, also a junior, has a knack for big plays. He's been in on 85 tackles, including six behind the line of scrimmage.Tantleff, a senior defensive back, leads Bernards in interceptions with six. Junior DB Evan Farlow has made four interceptions.
Bernards is seeded third in the section. A victory Friday night would pit the Mountaineers against either second-seeded Cedar Creek (in deep South Jersey) on the road or seventh-seeded Point Pleasant Boro at home in the second round next weekend.