Photo by Christopher Shannon

Defense leads Mountain Lakes to North 1, Section 1 Championship

MOUNTAIN LAKES – David Brearley outgained Mountain Lakes, but the Lakers' defense was stout when it mattered most in leading Mountain Lakes to a 16-6 victory over the Bears in the NJSIAA North Jersey Group 1, Section 1 Football Championship.

The Lakers' defense held a Brearley offense averaging about 36 points per game this season and roughly 48 points per game during the playoffs to just six in the sectional championship game. Additionally, while the Mountain Lakes defense bent on more than one occasion, it rarely broke. This bend but don't break mentality was on full display late in the third quarter, when, after Brearley was able to drive down to the Lakers' two-yard line, the Mountain Lakes defense produced a goal-line stand to keep the Bears from scoring.

Offensively, the Lakers would score all the points they needed in the first half. On their first possession, Jordan Hernando ran it in from six yards out, and Jimmy Elliott tacked on a two-point conversion to put the Lakers up 8-0. Brearly responded with a drive of its own, scoring on a 17-yard pass from Matt Sims to Brendan Fitzsimmons to cut the Laker lead to 8-6. However, with 4:21 left in the first half, Mountain Lakes' Gavin Ananian made a leaping grab in front of Fitzsimmons and continued to the end zone for the score. Another two-point run from Elliot would double the Lakers' point total, giving Mountain Lakes the 16-6 lead that their defense would not relinquish through the rest of the game.

Both teams turned predominantly to the run game to move their offenses. Mountain Lakes' ground attack was led by Nico Dunn's 13 carries for 67 yards. Dunn was assisted in the ball-carrying duties by Ben Miniter (six carries for 42 yards), Jimmy Elliott (11 carries for 30 yards), and Hernando (seven carries for 18 yards and a touchdown). Brearley's rushing attack was led by Sims' 168 yards on 37 carries.

Sims, Fitzsimmons, and Riley Caburis led Brearley through the air. Sims finished 7-of-16 for 108 yards and one touchdown, while Fitzsimmons made five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. Caburis added two catches for 50 yards. Miniter led the Mountain Lakes air attack going 3-of-5 for 65 yards and a touchdown. Ananian, Dunn, and Marco Dzamba each had one reception, with Ananian's 45-yard touchdown grab being the longest.

With the win, Mountain Lakes will host Weequahic in a Group 1 semifinal on Saturday. David Brearley ends their season at 10-1.

Christopher Shannon