NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Back in September, before the Pioneers football squad kicked-off their 2014 season, New Providence head coach Joe Carollo placed the success of the season on his veteran offensive backs.
“We have to stay healthy,” he said, prior to the Pioneers final tune-up against Madison. However, since uttering those five words, New Providence has not played a single game with all of their stars 100 percent healthy.
That will change when the Pioneers open the second half of their season on Friday at Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield. After seeing injuries to Matt McCann, Yamato Ejiri and Ibn Nash at one point or another since August, that will no longer be an issue come Friday, when all are expected to be major contributors the rest of the way.
“We’re just hoping to build and build and build,” Carollo said. “We feel like we’ve gotten our personnel better. We’ve definitely gotten healthier. Ibn is at 100 percent and Yamato is pretty close to 100 percent, which is good moving forward. Those are the things I think are important at this stage.”
Getting healthy was clearly the most important thing for Carollo during the bye week, and why wouldn’t it. Nash has four rushing touchdowns on just 14 carries, while Ejiri is averaging 7.5 yards per carry through four games.
As successful as Nash has been, he wants the ball more, which Carollo responded with “Be careful what you wish for.”
“We’re just building him to get healthy,” Carollo said. “We also have to make sure we get our other running backs some carries because everyone of them contributes in some way to our program and to the balance of our offense. Is Ibn a dynamic running back? Absolutely, he’s a dynamic running back. Is he the type of kid that can carry us? He can carry us in spots, but what we want to do is continue to maintain our offensive balance and I think we will continue to do that.”
The trick for Carollo and Offensive Coordinator Art Cattano is finding room for all of the Pioneers’ offensive threats, including multi-dimensional quarterback Jack Harvey.
Harvey has been the lone constant in the Pioneers’ offensive lineup in the first four games of the year. The senior has completed 50 percent of his passes for 377 yards and four touchdowns. More impressively, Harvey has dominated the ground attack.
On 65 carries, Harvey has a team-leading 476 yards with seven scores, a true weapon in Carollo’s eyes.
“We talk about him making better decisions, but you look at this season, he’s a weapon,” Carollo said. “He’s a weapon in the air. He’s a weapon running the ball. That’s what we talk about, having the compliment of offensive players and that’s what we think we have. If we can get Yamato healthy, Ibn healthy, and can block some people, these are all things we have to do.”
The Pioneers have four games remaining before the state tournament cutoff on Nov. 8. However, it could be the hardest four games of the season.
After visiting Dayton on Friday, the Pioneers play at 3-2 Bound Brook next week before hosting Roselle Park on November 1. Their season finale, with major state tournament and division championship implications, is a home contest against division-leading Brearley.
“I think they have something to prove,” Carollo said on his team’s final four games. “Everybody thinks this is the year to beat us. They can go on thinking that, but we need to keep proving every week that we’re the team we want to be. I think teams are starting to see that.”