Football: Pioneers Blast Brearley to Secure Spot in State Tournament

New Providence quarterback Matt McCann led the Pioneers on both sides of the ball, scoring both an offensive and defensive touchdown in NPHS's victory over Brearley. Credits: Alli Lamhing

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Behind two touchdowns from All-Everything Matt McCann, the New Providence Pioneers football team defeated Brearley, 31-8, Friday night in a pivotal Mid-State 38 conference battle. In the process, the Pioneers clinched a seed in the upcoming North Jersey Section 2, Group 1 playoff bracket.

McCann, who plays offense and defense, scored on both sides of the ball and continued his solid play at quarterback since taking over for the injured Jack Harvey.

“As a team, we knew we had to come out and set the tone early,” McCann said. “Everyone played well because we kept believing and playing hard despite the injuries.”

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One of those injuries McCann referenced was the apparent ankle injury to Ibn Nash, which forced him to leave the game midway through the third quarter. The extent of Nash’s injury is not yet known but McCann and the rest of his Pioneers teammates know they must move forward regardless. The gritty mentality is a major reason the team has fared well since Harvey, one of the team’s key contributors, went down to injury.

“We’ve already experienced a lot of injuries so it’s nothing new to us,” McCann said. “We just act like the injuries never happened.”

The first of McCann’s scores came early in the first quarter after an interception by Nash on just the fourth play from scrimmage set up the Pioneers offense with decent field position. On the Pioneer’s second offensive play, Nash took an end-around handoff 44 yards inside the Brearley 5-yard line before McCann scored on a 2-yard rush two plays later.

Nash’s interception was just one of many key plays from a constantly-improving Pioneer defense that’s allowed a total of just 15 points combined in the past two games.

This was truly a game in which defense set up the offense, as both Pioneer touchdowns in the first half started off defensive turnovers. The defense’s second turnover came early in the second quarter on a forced fumble and recovery that set up the Pioneer offense at the Brearley 16-yard line. And once again, the offense capitalized on the turnover as Nash took an end-around for a 16-yard score that gave his team a 14-0 lead.

The Pioneer defense shut-out Brearley in the first half and didn’t allow a score until late in the fourth quarter.

“The defense really stepped up tonight and played with a lot of intensity,” New Providence head coach Joe Carollo said. “But tonight was a total team effort. We’ve had a lot of injuries this year but everyone’s rallied and kept fighting.”

McCann led the defensive charge late in the third quarter. After he fumbled deep in Brearley territory, McCann more than made up for his mistake, taking an interception on the Bears' first play into the end zone to put the Pioneers ahead 24-0.

A blocked punt by Brearley led to its only score of the night as David Eskin ran the ball in from two yards out with just under five minutes remaining in the game. 

The combination of explosive offensive weapons and a defense that appears on the rise, the Pioneers should prove no slouch in the playoffs regardless of the opponent, according to Carollol

“If we continue to do what we’ve been doing all year, we’ll be fine in the playoffs,” Carollo said.

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