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Wertz column: Providence football eager to build on upset over West Meck

By Langston Wertz Jr.

Providence High first-year football coach Justin Hardin said he was a little surprised his team upset West Mecklenburg 31-27 Friday. It stands as one of the biggest wins in Providence’s 24-year history, and it’s certainly the biggest for Hardin at his new school.

West Meck was ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press N.C. 4A media poll and had scored more than 60 points in three of its first five games. Providence was 2-3 entering the game and needed a win to keep its conference championship hopes alive.

Providence quarterback Caleb York said few gave his team a chance, and he’s probably right, but this is the type of a win that can change programs. Hardin admitted Saturday that it came earlier than he expected.

“To be in your first year with new coaches and a new plan, usually you don’t get that type of win until your second or third year,” Hardin said. “To have it at the mid-point of our season is huge for our program. We battled Porter Ridge (before losing a late lead and falling 28-24 last month) and we thought that could be one of those type wins for us. It lets your kids know they can play with anyone. So this one is huge for our program, not just this year but for our confidence, to show us we can play with anyone in the city.”

Hardin said his team had a similar game plan before playing Olympic a week earlier. Providence lost 21-7 to Olympic, but Hardin saw a change in his team last week.

“Most teams we play are going to be more athletic than we are,” Hardin said. “But I told our kids back in August that every good football team I’ve been associated with, at some point during the year, has got to learn to practice the right way. And we had our best week of practice last week, with understanding how to go full speed every play. I think every coach and every player had a good feeling going into that (West Meck) game. It’s how we practiced this week that helped us.”

• The Hardin family of coaches is having a good year. Justin’s Providence team is 3-3 overall. His twin brother, Blair, is in his first year at Freedom. The Patriots(5-1) won their third straight game Friday, beating Hickory 34-27. And the boys’ father, Bruce, led his Providence Day (5-2) team to an upset over N.C. Independent Schools Division III championship favorite SouthLake Christian 43-33 on the road.

• From 2009-2012, Marvin Ridge was 21-2 in nonconference regular-season games. This season, the Mavericks are 1-5. Marvin Ridge lost 20-14 to reigning N.C. Independent Schools III state champ Victory Christian Friday.

• A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the lack of good defense being played among area teams. It bears repeating.

Friday, in the Observer’s coverage area, Concord beat Central Cabarrus 63-50, which sounds like a basketball score. A.L. Brown beat Vance 55-40. Statewide, 27 teams topped 50 points.

Mallard Creek scored 69 points, Rocky River had 67 and Forestview scored a school-record 66. But they didn’t lead the state in scoring Friday. Hough set a school record with 73, South Iredell had 70 points and five other teams topped 70.

• There are many big games Friday, but here’s one to circle on your calendar for Oct. 18: Sweet 16 No. 4 Butler at Rocky River. This looks a whole lot like the Southwestern 4A Conference championship game.

Rocky River has won six straight games since losing 37-13 at Richmond Senior to start the season. Rocky River has held its past six opponents to an average of only 9.8 points per game. That’s the kind of defensive work that can win titles.

Butler, the reigning N.C. 4AA champion, is beginning to round into form after losing 16 starters from one of the best teams in state history. The Bulldogs lost two of their first four games – to state powers Mallard Creek and Mount Tabor – but are beginning to play the type of football that should get them re-inserted into the discussion among teams who are serious contenders to win a state championship.

Wertz: 704-612-9716; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr;
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