ROSELLE PARK, NJ – The Roselle Park Panthers have been the thorn in the side of the New Providence varsity football team over the past year. After ending their 2012 season, the Panthers gave them another blow, defeating the Pioneers, 15-13, in Friday’s nights regular season finale.
Four New Providence turnovers, including a fourth quarter fumble, as well as a last second missed field goal, plagued the Pioneers in their bid for a home game in next week’s state tournament.
“There was a lot on the line and at times we didn’t execute,” head coach Joe Carollo said. “We fight like hell. We have to do a better job putting points on the board. We can’t be on the field as long as we were. There’s a lot we need to work on.”
Despite the mistakes, New Providence was still in a position to win the game in the final minute.
After the Pioneers recovered a fumble on their own 33, they drove down the field to the Roselle Park 22 yard line. However, with three seconds left, senior place kicker David Gelormini missed a 40-yard kick wide left.
New Providence led early in the game, after junior cornerback Matt McCann returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown on Roselle Park’s first possession. However, the Pioneers could not capitalize on the momentum.
Their offense sputtered for most the game, turning the ball over on every drive they had in the first half, including a safety late in the second quarter.
“We have to give some credit to Roselle Park. The safety is the difference in the game right there. That’s just a poor play on our part. We just have to work in practice, be better with the football, sharper with the football.”
Leading 7-2 at the half, the Pioneers allowed Roselle Park to score touchdowns on their first two possessions of the third quarter. Once they got behind, the New Providence defense buckled down, allowing only 29 yards in the fourth quarter.
In the final 12 minutes, the New Providence offense got into gear when junior Ibn Nash ran for a 34-yard score to bring the Pioneers within two points in the fourth quarter. However, they could not get any closer.
This was the third time in less than a year that the Panthers beat New Providence.
Even with the loss, the Pioneers qualify for the state tournament, which begins next weekend. The Pioneers will play at Secaucus in the first round.
Carollo is optimistic the team can succeed in the postseason, however they have a lot of work to do before then.
“The positive is we start the playoffs next week,” he said. “We’re going to Secaucus. We’ve been there. We know what they do. We have to play better. We still have the ability.”