With a dominant second-half effort on both sides of the ball, Providence erased a 16-14 halftime deficit and pulled away from South Meck late for a 35-16 senior night victory. The victory set up Providence (7-3, 5-1) with a chance at a share of the SoMeck 8 conference championship when the Panthers meet Charlotte Catholic next week.
First-year Providence coach Justin Hardin said he was frustrated at halftime, but pleased with the way his team finished the game, and more importantly, excited for what’s ahead for the Panthers.
“It’s a testament to these kids,” Hardin said. “Since June, they’ve worked as hard as they could. For this staff to come together and be competing for a share of the conference championship in our first year, it’s big for this program.”
Providence trailed at the break after South Meck (3-7, 3-3) scored on a 7-yard fumble return by linebacker Zach Gilbert from 7 yards out and a defensive breakdown that allowed South Meck quarterback Stephen Griffin to find wide receiver Bedrick Yobo for a 57-yard touchdown.
But the Panthers’ second-half performance turned those first-half mistakes into mere footnotes by game’s end.
“We weren’t playing Providence football (in the first half) and South Meck did a great job,” Hardin said. “But coming out in the second half, converting on some big third downs, the defense having a shutout, it was just an offensive and defensive effort, it really was.”
The Providence defense forced a fumble on South Meck’s second snap after halftime, and the Panthers needed just six plays to march 34 yards and take a 21-16 lead on running back Giovanni Gonzales’s second 2-yard touchdown run of the night.
It was all the points the Panthers needed, as Providence suffocated Griffin and South Meck the rest of the way, allowing the Sabres to penetrate Panthers territory just once after halftime.
Providence pulled away in the fourth on a 45-yard touchdown run by running back Brian Mattar, then stretched its lead to 35-16 when defensive back Duncan Van Schalkwyk raced into the end zone on a 23-yard pick-six.
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