Pioneers Host Bears in Showdown for 1st Place in BCC Division 1A
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ—A little over a week ago, a player on New Providence’s football team reached out to Big Central Gridiron and made an appeal for BCG to come up and cover the key Big Central Conference Division 1A match-up between the Pioneers and Bound Brook. Well, we’re a week late, but tonight’s match-up between the Pioneers and David Brearley of Kenilworth may be an even better one.
Good things come to those who wait, and the folks at New Providence High School will be getting their visit as BCG will take its road show to the Hills of Union County along Interstate 78 when the Pioneers host the Bears in a clash for first place in Division 1A on Friday night starting at 7:00 PM. New Providence enters the game at 2-1 following a 40-8 victory over Bound Brook last week.
Meanwhile, Brearley, which defeated Middlesex (36-13) last Friday night, enters the contest at 3-0 with two shutouts, and has outscored its opponents by a margin of 104-13 or by an average of about 35 to 4. The Pioneers only loss of the season came at the hands of Willingboro (26-7) of the West Jersey Football League and Burlington County on September 18th after their original game with Belvidere was postponed.
New Providence has outscored its opponents 96-48 in its three games including a 89-22 margin in its two victories. Both teams have played Middlesex this season with the Pioneers winning by a larger margin (49-14) in Week 1. Prior to the start of the season, Big Central Gridiron had projected these two schools to be in the mix for the division title. Both teams were projected to finish in the top three of the division.
Both teams are battling for a playoff spot with Brearley looking to qualify in the North Jersey Group 1 super section while New Providence is looking to obtain a berth in the South Jersey Group 2 super section. The Pioneers are currently seeded 11th in its section while the Bears are currently seeded 11th in its section.
Brearley could get some help though as teams in the Super Football Conference and the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference have been asking for schedule relief and will have to give up their playoff spot in order to do that according to Central Jersey Sports Radio. Last season, both New Providence and Brearley were among the top small schools in the BCC with the Pioneers going 8-1 overall and the Bears finishing up at 6-2.
New Providence along with Bernards were among the few around the state that played a 9 game schedule in spite of the problems presented by the COVID-19 pandemic at the time. Both teams went 8-1. The Pioneers and Brearley Bears actually finished 4th and 6th respectively in the Big Central Gridiron’s Final Union County Top 10 in 2020.
The two schools also squared off during the 2020 season in New Providence with the Pioneers winning the game, 21-20. Brearley has won 3 of the last 5 meetings though dating back to 2016 with victories over the Pioneers in 2016 (27-13), 2017 (29-28), and 2019 (35-13). The 2019 meeting was the most lopsided of the last five with the other four being decided by 14 points or less and three of those games decided by 6 points or less.
Over the last 10 meetings dating back to 2011, New Providence has gone 6-4 versus Brearley. Starting the rivalry in 1984, the Pioneers lead the series 19-15-1. Brearley actually won the 5 of the first 6 meetings including a playoff win in 1988 (19-16). The only meeting during that stretch that the Bears didn’t win was a scoreless tie in 1987.
From 1989 until 2016, New Providence had garnered a record of 17-7. In the 35 games played in the rivalry, the Pioneers have outscored the Bears by a margin of 781 to 544, or an average of 22 to 16 per contest. New Providence and Brearley did lose a good deal of talent to graduation in June, but still have a number of key pieces back to help each school be in contention for the division crown.
For New Providence, everything centers around junior running back, Charlie Barth, who led the team in rushing with 1,702 yards on offense and 115 total tackles and 2 sacks on defense as only a sophomore. Barth averaged 9.2 yards per carry and scored 25 TDs on the ground while also catching 4 passes for 47 yards. Fellow junior teammate, Dean Licari also returns at QB.
A season ago, Licari completed 49 of 84 passes for 687 yards and 7 TDs while throwing only one interception. Licari also rushed 24 times for 91 yards and 4 more scores. So far this season, Barth has rushed 46 times for 446 yards, or an average of 9.7 yards per carry with 6 TDs while sophomore RB Ben Gullo has also contributed with 13 carries for 100 yards and 2 TDs.
Licari has completed 9 of 16 passes for 84 yards and 3 TDs with no interceptions. Senior Chris Kowantz leads the team in receptions with 3 catches for 23 yards and a touchdown while fellow classmate, Jeff Nook has the longest reception of the year of 32 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Trevor Davidson, who caught 3 passes for 33 yards a year ago, has one reception for 12 yards.
On defense, Anthony Kaspereen, who collected 60 total tackles and 2 sacks as a sophomore before compiling 55 total tackles and 2 sacks as a junior last season, leads the team in total tackles with 21 including 12 solo tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Barth has also contributed on the defensive side of the ball with 11 total tackles including 6 solo tackles along with a fumble recovery. Matt Blovins has added 19 total tackles including 12 solo tackles, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Barth also has 4 two point conversions scored while Davidson has one. Senior placekicker, Brandon Mora, who made 10 of 11 extra points as a sophomore in 2019, and 31 of 38 point afters as a junior in 2020, is perfect in all eight of his extra point attempts so far this season. Sophomore DB Jackson Zarinko has the team’s only interception of the season to date.
Meanwhile, for Brearley, junior QB Matt Sims returns and has completed 17 of 25 passes for 207 yards and 3 TDs with no interceptions. He has already thrown for more touchdowns and almost as much yardage as he did all last season. Sims also leads the team in rushing with 440 yards on 58 carries or about 7.6 yards per rush with 5 TDs. Sims has accounted for 647 yards and 8 TDs on offense, or about 64 percent of Brearley’s total offense, and 53 percent of its scoring.
Also returning this year is senior RB, Quinn Lonergan, who has rushed for 327 yards and 7 TDs on 56 carries or about 5.8 yards per rush while leading the Bears in receiving with 5 catches for 87 yards and another score. Brendan Fitzsimmons (5 receptions for 42 yards and 2 TDs) and Connor Hannon (6 receptions for 61 yards) have combined for 11 catches and 9.4 yards per catch.
On defense, Lonergan leads the team with 22 total tackles along with a fumble recovery. Alex Chuley has pitched in with 20 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and one sack. Kristian Janeczko leads the team in sacks with 2 while also having 19 total tackles. Bruce Harms also has 19 total tackles along with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
The Bears have forced 3 fumbles and recovered 7 of them. Sims and Lonergan have combined for 3 two point conversion scores with Lonergan accounting for 2 of the 3. David Brearley has not attempted an extra point this season. Brearley has run the ball 84 percent of the time so far this season while New Providence has run the ball 85 percent of the time so far in 2021. Last season, the Pioneers ran the ball 78 percent of the time while the Bears ran it 87 percent of the time.
This game will be another close one in the series and it could come down to kicking. New Providence has the edge there.
Prediction: New Providence wins, 24-23.