NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ -- New Providence football coach Chet Parlavecchio Jr. unshackled his quarterback and unveiled a new workhorse running back Friday night.
Sophomore running back Charlie Barth rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries in his first varsity start and senior quarterback Owen Kovacs rushed for 112 yards on 20 carries and passed for 69 yards to help guide New Providence to a 30-14 opening night victory over Dayton of Springfield.
Barth was hardly eased into his new role on the varsity--he carried the ball on each of the Pioneers' first five offensive plays for 36 yards. New Providence didn't score on that possession, but the Pioneers did score on their second series after Dayton fumbled its second snap of the game, giving New Providence the ball on the Bulldogs' 13-yard line. And Barth carried on three of the next four plays, capping the short drive with a 5-yard TD run off left tackle with 4:35 left for a 6-0 lead.
"Charlie's gonna be a great player," Kovacs said. "He's only going to get better. We wanted to get him going early."
It looked like New Providence's offensive game plan might consist simply of student-body left, student-body right with Barth carrying the load, but after that first TD, the Pioneers diversified the attack considerably, working out of several spread formations and giving Kovacs the keys to the SUV and letting him be creative, too.
"Tonight we took the training wheels off and told Owen the bubble wrap is off now," Parlavecchio said. "We kept him under wraps some in the pre-season, but we let him go tonight. Our quarterback is our heartbeat, and he can throw the ball and run the ball."
New Providence's defense forced turnovers on each of Dayton's first three possessions, with Jack Donahue and Aidan Donnelly recovering fumbles and Marcello Boccellari intercepting a pass. New Providence extended its lead to 12-0 with 4:42 left in the first half on a 3-yard TD run by Barth, who again exploited the left side to cap a 63-yard, nine-play drive.
Barth's third TD came on an 8-yard run--again, around left end--with 7:20 left in the third quarter to close out a 94-yard, nine-play drive with 7:20 left. Kovacs completed a pair of passes for a total of 28 yards to tight end Donnelly in the drive, which featured two runs of 20-plus yards by Barth.
"Charlie is an impressive kid," Parlavecchio said. "We feel good about handing him the ball. We wanted to establish him as a runner early."
Sean Michaels' 60-yard interception return extended the Pioneer lead to 24-0. Kovacs' 10-yard TD pass to Donnelly was New Providence's final score with 3:57 left in the game.
Although Dayton was able to move the ball at times through the air, the Bulldogs gained very little on the ground, and really didn't even spend much time trying to establish a ground game against New Providence's imposing front.
"Our defensive line was insane," Kovacs said. "They gave up almost no yards on the ground."
"The defensive line is the strength of our team," Parlavecchio said. "Aidan Donnelly and Tucker Davidson played well, and we have Nate Woodby, who's doing a nice job on both sides of the ball."
New Providence has another home game next Friday at 7 p.m. against Roselle Park, and the Pioneers will actually be looking for improvement in that one.
"We didn't play our best football," Kovacs said. "We're happy with the win, but we can play a lot better."