GREENWICH — Michael Gottlieb ran 19 times for 205 yards and three touchdowns to lead Brunswick to a 38-12 victory over Williston-Northampton that earned the Bruins a spot in the NEPSAC championship bowl game next Saturday.
Brunswick coach Jarrett Shine said they won’t have official word on next week’s opponent or the location of the game until Sunday, but he couldn’t have been more pleased with his team’s 8-1 finish.
“I’m so proud,” Shine said. “Because if you asked me at the beginning of the season, I didn’t think we were going to have a great year because we lost so many seniors. We lost 23 guys, a lot of starters. Our juniors, our young guys really stepped up and we became a true family and the guys looked after each other. I didn’t imagine this happening, but we knew once we started rolling we could control our own fate. And we did that.”
Brunswick knew it needed a win Saturday against the Easthampton, Mass. school that entered the game 3-4, but the first half wasn’t promising. Two interceptions, a failed fake punt and a Williston onside kick combined with stiff winds and snow flurries at Cosby Field kept Brunswick off the board until the final seconds of the second quarter.
The offense got going once junior quarterback Nicky Winegardner was finally able to connect with Cornelius Johnson, his 6-foot-3 senior receiver who is a four-star recruit. The duo connected on three consecutive plays, starting with a diving catch on the sideline on third-and-10 and culminating with a professional looking out-route that saw Johnson snatch a well-timed pass away from defenders at the front corner of the end zone. Chris Chavez’s extra point gave Brunswick a 7-6 lead at halftime.
“The second-half speech was, listen, we’re not playing up to our capabilities; we’re allowing a team that we felt wasn’t as good as us to stay in the game,” Shine said. “We have to fight, we have to take pride in our work. That second half we came out strong and we rolled from there.”
Gottlieb took over in the second half. Brunswick handed off to him on its first three plays of the third quarter, and Gottlieb took the offense from its own 37 all the way to the end zone — and he was just getting started.
Gottlieb scored again on the Bruins’ next possession, and when they recovered the ensuing kickoff, he took the following play 25 yards for another touchdown.
“A lot of emotions,” Gottlieb said of his afternoon. “I’ve been playing football since 4 years old and that was one of the last times I’ll run the ball so it felt good to do that.”
Gottlieb has been solid filling in for starting running back Jalen Madison, who is recovering from an ankle injury and could return next week.
“He’s really stepped up,” Shine said. “He was backing up Jalen for a while and he kept saying, ‘I can do it, I can do it,’ and he got his opportunity to get on the field and he made some great plays. The last three games he’s averaged over 100 yards rushing.”
Brunswick recorded six sacks on the day, including two important ones by Ryan Mulshine in the first quarter that helped keep the game tight. Liam Fairback also stepped up for the defense, intercepting a running-back pass and returning it for a touchdown.
Michael Gottlieb. His efforts made sure Brunswick would advance to a New England Preparatory School Athletic Council bowl game for the first time since 2016.
“Jalen Madison is a great running back — he led the team here,” Gottlieb said. “But I knew when I got my opportunity I was going to show them that I could run the ball. That’s what I’ve been doing the last three games. Hopefully next week they give me the ball again.”
Cornelius Johnson, whom 247Sports ranks as the top uncommitted player in Connecticut, said he will announce his college decision after the season ends. He has narrowed his list to Michigan, Stanford, Penn State, Alabama and Notre Dame.
BRUNSWICK 38, WILLISTON-NORTHAMPTON 12
WILLISTON-NORTHAMPTON 0 6 6 0 – 12
BRUNSWICK 0 7 25 6 – 38
WN – Thomas Thibault 22 pass from Henri Bourque (pass failed)
B – Cornelius Johnson 11 pass from Nick Winegardner (Chris Chavez kick)
B – Michael Gottlieb 30 run (Chavez kick)
B – Liam Fairback 28 interception return (kick failed)
WN – Ryan Fitzpatrick 48 pass from Bourque (pass failed)
B – Gottlieb 11 run (kick failed)
B – Gottlieb 25 run (pass failed)
B – David MacGillivray 1 run (kick failed)
Records: Brunswick 8-1, Williston-Northampton 3-5