NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Thanksgiving football is intended to be a fulfilled day of rivalry match ups. It is a chance for the non-playoff teams to get in one more game and as a warmup for the second round of the playoffs for teams that move on. For New Providence, it was a day of heartache and nausea, as the Pioneers just squeaked by Governor Livingston, 30-20, to win their seventh straight Mayor's Trophy.
"It's kind of a huge tradition," New Providence's senior running back Derek Singer said. "We get it in our heads that we just can't lose to them and we won't lose."
The Pioneers never trailed in the game and led 28-6 with four minutes to play in the third quarter. However, Governor Livingston scored 14 unanswered points and had possession of the ball with a chance to tie the game, before a dropped pass on 4th and 4 ended a drive, then a New Providence safety with 15 seconds remaining in the contest sealed the win for the Pioneers.
New Providence's first-year head coach Joe Carollo said the fourth quarter was a little nerve-wracking.
"These kids, they persevere, they fight," Carollo said. "That's New Providence, they fight."
New Providence led the Highlanders 14-6 at halftime. Singer scored two touchdowns in the first 24 minutes, one from 16 yards, the other from two yards out to account for New Providence's scoring.
Defensively, the Pioneers' defense held Governor Livingston to only two field goals, including a 41-yard kick from quarterback and place kicker Patrick Mahoney.
After a long halftime break to allow both schools' bands and cheerleaders to perform, New Providence forced a three-and-out and then ran four offensive plays, including a 40-yard run from Singer to set up C.J Kleisch's six yard touchdown run to put the Pioneers up 21-6.
New Providence's Vincent Sidoli followed Kleisch's run with a a 12-yard run of his own to put the Pioneers ahead 28-6.
Governor Livingston stole the momentum on their next drive. The Highlanders ran a 16-play, 8 minute and 45 second yard drive that culminated in a three yard run from Ryan Jennings. After a failed two-point conversion, the Highlanders recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran five plays leading to a 24-yard touchdown run from P.J. Jamolowitz.
Governor Livingston converted on a two-point try, but failed to recover the onside kick. However, the Highlander defense held New Providence to their first three-and-out of the game. The Pioneers punted the ball inside the Governor Livingston five yard line.
Needing a touchdown, the Highlanders threw four straight incomplete passes, including on 4th and 4 where the receiver dropped a would-be first down, and turned the ball over on downs.
Governor Livingston got the ball back with less than a minute to play, after stopping the Pioneers inside the five yard line, but Mahoney was sacked inside the end zone for a safety, securing the win for New Providence.
"We're without out starting quarterback in Jack Harvey and (backup quarterback Bryan) Sherman steps right in and does his thing," Carollo said. "This team just has each other's back 100 percent. This senior class, this day's for them. They're tight, they're all in."
The Pioneers will now begin prep for their Nov. 30th game at Roselle Park in the sectional semi-finals. The Panthers defeated rival Roselle 28-14 this afternoon. Roselle Park defeated New Providence on the road in the regular season finale.
Singer hopes to get revenge on the Panthers and move on to the state finals.
"It's nice to keep playing football, stay in football mode," he said. "We definitely want to get back at Roselle Park. They beat us here, we're definitely going to beat them there."
Kickoff for next week's game is scheduled for 7 p.m.