Paulsboro overcomes 0-3 start, concludes regular season with fourth win over Audubon
Paulsboro's Javon Bagby lines up on offense in a game earlier this season. Picture by Fred D Photography
AUDUBON (N.J.) - The Paulsboro High School football team embraced for a new era after the retirement of legendary coach Glenn Howard in the offseason.
Howard directed the Red Raiders for 35 seasons and guided the program to 14 sectional titles during his tenure.
Replacing him wouldn't be an easy task, but a familiar face stepped up to the plate.
Kevin Harvey, a 1996 Paulsboro graduate who rushed for over 4,000 career yards and scored over 100 touchdowns, took over at the helm after serving as an assistant coach for 14 seasons.
His tenure experienced a rugged start as the Red Raiders dropped the first three games of their campaign - their first 0-3 start since 1976 - by a combined 74 points.
However, Paulsboro turned the tide with three wins over its final four contests.
A 34-19 win over Audubon on Saturday afternoon capped a rollercoaster regular season and evened the Red Raiders record at 4-4.
The Green Wave jumped out to a 10-0 lead following a five-yard rushing score by Scott Lynch and a 27-yard field goal from Logan Gilbert.
The 2021 Central Jersey Group 1 runner-ups responded with 22 unanswered points.
Damire Avant contributed a rushing touchdown, and quarterback Rocco Pellegrini tossed a pair of passing touchdowns.
After Gilbert drilled another field goal to make it 22-13 at the end of the third quarter, Avant and Pellegrini both found the end zone again with rushing touchdowns in the final quarter to erase any doubt.
"It's been every game that we've came out slow," Harvey said. "We're poised when we want to be and we keep shooting ourselves in the foot with not finishing games.
We fight every game, and we can play with anybody. All we have to do is give ourselves a chance to win. It all has to click. Every one has to do their job. We have the guys, but we have to be in the right place."
The rushing attack powered Avant and Pellegrini accumulated yards.
As a quarterback, Pellegrini is often viewed as a pocket passer. But his contributions on the ground alongside Avant helped power the Red Raiders to a much-needed victory on Saturday.
"Not many people, including myself, think of me as a runner," Pellegrini said. "I'm used to throwing the ball 30 plus times a game, but we looked at film and we liked what we saw. We had the idea of just letting Damire eat and the coaches called my number a few times for some carries and I tried to make the most of it."
The Green Wave fell to 3-4 after notching a pair of wins over traditional Camden County rivals Collingswood and Haddon Heights in the previous two weeks.
"We knew coming into this game they wanted to run the ball a lot," Audubon coach Dan Reed said. "Credit to their running back for breaking tackles and making plays. We have to execute better, but moving forward we're going to pick up the pieces and prepare for the road ahead."