NEW PROVIDENCE, N.J. – Without even realizing it, New Providence football fans caught a glimpse of their future last November when the Pioneers fell to Roselle Park.
For the only time during the 2013 season, Yamato Ejiri and Ibn Nash shared the back field together, rushing for 105 yards on 14 carries and a Nash touchdown.
Fast forward 10 months, the starting running back tandem is healthy and ready to surprise opponents with their quickness and athleticism, which is a change compared to last year’s ground-and-pound attack.
“We have all speed this year,” senior quarterback Jack Harvey said. “We’re looking at getting outside and getting up field on every play and really using their speed. Last year we weren’t able to use them that much, but this year they’ll be able to help out.”
Third-year head coach Joe Carollo believes this is the year of the offense in New Providence, but the key to their success is keeping Ejiri and Nash healthy.
Ejiri spent all but one game on the sideline with two broken collar bones, the second occurring during a running play at Roselle Park, though this hasn’t caused any second guessing on his part.
“I kind of let that go,” he said. “I actually just kind of use that as motivation during my off-season to work harder. I let it roll off my back. I didn’t think about it.”
On the other hand, Nash played in seven games last year, but missed the entire month of October. Once he was healthy, Nash dazzled the Pioneers’ opposition, rushing for 371 yards and four touchdowns in the final four games of the season.
“It comes down to the offensive crew,” Carollo said. “We have to stay healthy. We have several running backs coming back, but they all experienced some sort of injury last year. We have to keep them on the field. They all worked hard in the weight room, harder than any team I have seen…We feel we’re fast. We have some running backs that we have some confidence in.”
Ejiri and Nash will be receiving the ball from third-year quarterback Jack Harvey, who has taken New Providence football to the state semifinals in each of the past two seasons. Despite the success, two interceptions against Hoboken in the semis played a major factor in the Pioneers 40-23 loss.
Carollo thinks Harvey’s criticism comes with the role of a quarterback, when, in fact, he signal caller has been more than any coach could ask for.
“People take for granted how good he has been,” Carollo said. “He completed 60 percent of his passes for 900 yards and rushed for 600. That's good in my book. He does have to limit the mistakes.”
Harvey has the weapons around him this year to limit his mistakes. Outside of Ejiri and Nash in the backfield, he has four receivers in his arsenal, including All-Conference player Matt McCann.
“This year I hope we can pass the ball a lot,” Harvey said. “We have four good receivers this year coming in. I want to be able to throw the ball to them down field. We’ll have more touchdowns and we’ll be able to move the ball further down field easier than just running it. We have to be able to become a double threat team.”
For more on the 2014 Pioneers, including an in-depth look at their new-look defense, check back with TAP into New Providence on Friday.
Part one of TAP into New Providence's Football Preview focused on the new leadership for head coach Joe Carollo's Pioneers. Click here to read more.