NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - It was a day of firsts for the New Providence High boys soccer team.
Playing its initial home game of the season, the Pioneers rallied from a halftime deficit to earn its first victory of this truncated 2020 season, defeating Johnson of Clark, 3-2, on Saturday morning in New Providence.
Junior defenseman Franklin Markel scored both goals in the second half as New Providence (1-1-1) erased a 2-1 deficit.
Both goals were scored in similar fashion, as described by third-year head coach Craig Barclay.
"Franklin is very speedy, but as a defenseman, not known for his scoring," said Barclay. "In both instances, Franklin ran onto through balls, outran his defenders, and was very calm and composed when he took his shots."
Markel's first goal came with 25 minutes remaining in the second half as the Pioneers evened the score, 2-2. The game-winner occurred about 10 minutes later as Markel buried a shot from just outside the box.
Johnson (1-2) held a 1-0 lead after an early first-half goal before New Providence knotted the score on a goal by junior Ian Landsittel about 20 minutes later.
The Crusaders then took their final lead when they scored right before the end of the first half.
The New Providence defense, anchored by goalie Jack Schatzman, shutout Johnson in the second half. Schatzman, a junior, finished with nine saves.
"Everyone contributed today, especially on defense," said Barclay. "We preach team performance and that it'll take all of us. We don't have any superstars so it'll take a team effort every game. And today we beat a very good Johnson team."
After playing Rahway to a 1-1 tie in its season-opening game on Oct. 1, New Providence suffered a hard-fought 3-2 loss to Cranford on Thursday, Oct. 8.
Cranford (2-0-1) held a 3-0 lead over New Providence before senior Dylan Paniagua struck for two second-half goals for the Pioneers.
Steven Parker and Schatzman each made six saves in goal for New Providence in the loss.
"Cranford is a very strong team, and we were down by three goals," said Barclay. "But we battled back in the second half and really brought it."
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has limited the amount of fans that can attend each home game this fall.
"We can have fans, but we have spots on the bleachers six feet apart (for social distancing) and they all need to wear masks of course," said Barclay. "It's been very different with everything going on, but the soccer part is almost an escape for us and it's a good feeling to be back on the field."
New Providence will next take to the pitch on Tuesday, Oct. 13 when it will play host to Dayton at 4 p.m. before playing its rival, Gov. Livingston on Saturday, Oct. 17 in Berkeley Heights at 2 p.m.