NHIAA D-III Football: Pair has a Giant connection at BradyBy ALEX HALL
New Hampshire Union Leader
November 09. 2016 4:28AM
CONCORD -- It was a seven-on-practice back in the summer. The first pass Bishop Brady wide receiver Rich Sullivan caught from quarterback Joe Bernard went for a touchdown.
Since then, there’s been a chemistry that has produced more than a few touchdowns for the Green Giants.
Bernard, a senior transfer from Nashua South, has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and 23 touchdowns for Bishop Brady (8-1) this season. Sullivan, a junior, has tallied 769 receiving yards and caught 17 of Bernard’s touchdown passes. Bernard and Sullivan have connected for two or more touchdowns in four games.
“Right off the bat, during seven-on-sevens over at Rundlett Middle School, these guys started clicking right away,” Green Giants coach Matt Shaw said at Tuesday’s practice. “It’s pretty obvious Rich is (Joe’s) No. 1 target.”
Bernard has thrown 11 touchdowns over the Green Giants’ last three games. Six of them have gone to Sullivan.
“I know I can look to (Sullivan) when we’re in trouble or we need a score,” Bernard said. “If he gets position, I can put it where it needs to be.”
Sullivan said he and Bernard have developed their chemistry over the course of the season. They get to every practice 15-20 minutes early to throw and run routes. During games, Sullivan and Bernard are constantly comparing notes about what they’re seeing from the defense.
“I test the corners the first play, then I tell Joe and we try to talk to each other throughout the game,” Sullivan said. “I just feel like we have a connection throughout the game.”
More than a few of Bernard’s touchdown passes to Sullivan have come via the deep ball. Shaw said Bernard’s ability to throw downfield and Sullivan’s impressive speed have made for a good deep-threat combination.
Sullivan has started since his freshman year and has always been a deep threat, Shaw said. This year, Shaw has seen Sullivan become a more aggressive receiver who has the ability to juke out and outmuscle a defender.
“It’s his ball when it’s in the air,” Shaw said. “That’s the way he looks at it.”
Bernard, who came from a read-option scheme at South to Bishop Brady’s spread system, has become a calming presence in the huddle for the Green Giants. Shaw joked sometimes Bernard seems so at ease that he is tempted to check the quarterback’s pulse.
“Nothing seems to rattle him,” Shaw said. “He’ll get upset for two seconds then he says, ‘I’m over it.’ He’s got that good quarterback mentality of a short memory.”
Both Bernard and Sullivan’s strengths were on display when the Green Giants earned a 46-20 quarterfinal win over defending D-III champion Newport this past Saturday. Bernard threw for six touchdowns, five of which were caught by Sullivan in the first half.
“We definitely came out strong, first of all,” Sullivan said. “The defense stepped up and we came back on offense and just kept scoring. That’s what we wanted to do.”
The Green Giants will take that mindset into their semifinal bout with Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough Saturday at 1 p.m. at Memorial Field.
The Lakers (7-2) handed Bishop Brady its only loss Sept. 9 (35-7). Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough defeated the Green Giants, 49-7, in the playoffs last year. The Lakers are coming off a 42-0 quarterfinal triumph over Winnisquam of Tilton.
Sullivan said the key for Bishop Brady Saturday is to learn from the miscues it made against the Lakers in the regular season.
“It was just little mistakes we had last game,” Sullivan said. “We’re constantly improving and I think we’ve got a good chance of beating them.”