By Tom Szieber
Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2018 6:10 pm
Chet Parlavecchio, Jr. has literally been watching program turnarounds since he was two years old. His father and namesake, the current head coach at Passaic Valley, has built a career on restoring respectability to programs mired in tough times -- Bloomfield, Irvington, Passaic Valley, Clifton and Elizabeth, to be specific.
So when tasked with fixing the fortunes of a New Providence program that had -- after being a model small school program -- fallen off a cliff over the previous year-and-a-half (going 1-12 in its previous 13 games), Parlavecchio was quickly able to diagnose and address the issue.
“The first thing, and the biggest thing, was the commitment to the weight room,” Parlavecchio said. “When we came in last year, it was very evident that we were not physically strong enough to compete with teams we were playing with. On the field, it was just about finding little things each week to build off of. We had to learn how to practice, understand fundamentals and run the football more effectively.”
After a year of focusing on those objectives, the Pioneers look as strong as ever, going 4-0 to begin 2018. That start was highlighted by a Sept. 14 win over a Bound Brook team that has won back-to-back Mid-State 38 Union Division titles. And it wasn’t just a win, but a win that showed the mental toughness New Providence had developed, as it overcame having surrendered a 13-3 lead to trail by four in the fourth, before coming back to win 27-17.
Then, this past week, they parlayed the momentum into a 47-6 thrashing of Dayton.
Senior RB/S Jack Gertie has been one of the team’s stars in its hot start, piling up 401 yards and five touchdowns out of the Pioneers’ pro-style offense. His backfield mate, senior RB/LB Mario Fuentes, has showed off his explosiveness in tallying 220 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
Junior QB Owen Kovacs has taken big strides in his second year under center with senior WR/CB Anthony Sidoli as his favorite target. Seniors C/DT Danny LaMotta and G/LB Joe Delia have led a front five that is performing at a high level.
Fuentes (20 tackles), D’Anna (20) and Delia (17) have led a 4-3 defense that is allowing a solid 10.5 points per game.
They have no doubt come a long way from the 2-21 stretch that haunted them coming into the fall. Bigger, stronger and pounding the rock, they figure to be a major factor in North, Group 1 come late fall.
“It’s amazing what a difference the weight room can make, and not just physically,” Parlavecchio said. “Just as a team coming together, bonding and growing as a team. The offseason was tremendous; we had guys make a lot of gains. It’s showing on the field.”
Tom Szieber can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.